The postpartum period is notoriously difficult. Not only must parents grapple with sleepless nights, colicky babies, judgment from outsiders, and the anxiety of parenthood; the mother must also recover from giving birth. While many American women return to work within 6 weeks of giving birth, research shows that recovery takes much longer—a year or more in many cases. Indeed, one recent study found that pregnancy tests the limits of human endurance.
No wonder so many mothers struggle in the postpartum period. As many as 1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression, with 70-80% reporting mild sadness after giving birth. An additional 10% struggle with postpartum anxiety. What’s more, two-thirds of married couples see the quality of their marriage decline after having a baby. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is one tool for coping with the myriad challenges postpartum life presents.
Here are 6 key benefits of CBD in the postpartum period.
Easing Parental Anxiety
Anxiety can feel inevitable when you’re adapting to life with a newborn. Page through any parenting magazine and you’ll find something to worry about—from sudden infant death syndrome to antibiotic-resistant infections. Though the world is a scary place, most kids grow up happy and healthy. What’s more, your anxiety won’t protect your child. It’s just unproductive worry that can wear you out, wear you down, and make parenting feel like a miserable slog.
CBD offers a powerful antidote to this anxiety. A number of animal studies suggest that CBD offers anti-anxiety benefits that may be comparable to popular anxiety medications. Unlike anxiety medication, however, CBD won’t leave you feeling sleepy or compromise driving skill. Preliminary data also points to CBD as a potential treatment for social anxiety. So for parents feeling overwhelmed by visitors, prying eyes, and judgmental comments, CBD is a must-have in the medicine cabinet.
Recovering from Trauma
Trauma is depressingly common, especially following childbirth. More than a quarter of women describe their births as traumatic, with about 9% experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder after birth. A number of published case reports suggest that cannabidiol is an effective alternative to pharmaceuticals for the anxiety associated with post-traumatic stress. Research on rats suggests that cannabinoids may help modulate fear memory, changing the way the body and brain respond to memories of trauma. This can ease the troubling symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks and anger.
Researchers who study CBD generally agree that this compound can treat PTSD. The real challenge is standardizing treatment protocols. CBD oil offers a safe, entry-level option for people who don’t get help from traditional remedies or who want to avoid medication. For women struggling to come to terms with childbirth, the difference can be immediate.
“I had a terrible birth. It was scary and painful, and the staff mistreated me and made me think I was in more danger than I was. I had to fight for an hour to get to hold my baby, and I still don’t know why. I’ve really struggled with feeling angry and powerless. I used to find myself waking up in the middle of the night ruminating on what happened to me when I gave birth,” said Beth, an Atlanta mother who preferred to use a pseudonym. “CBD didn’t change the past. It enabled me to make peace with it. Now I feel empowered to step into my role as a mother, and confident that I can be a better advocate for myself during my next birth.”
Just keeping a tiny human alive can feel daunting. But that’s just the first challenge of parenting. You also have to teach them, play with them, and try to find a way to be mindful in the present without worrying in the future. CBD may help parents cultivate mindfulness. Some research suggests that CBD may help people feel awake and alert, even when they’re sleep-deprived.
“I didn’t expect it, but I found that after I started using CBD, I was better able to concentrate on the daily minutiae of parenting,” Beth said. “I was always one of those mothers who struggled with getting really into playing with kids, and I felt guilty about that. Something about CBD made it a little easier. I can’t explain what it was. I didn’t feel jittery or stressed, though. Just alert and attentive.”
Higher Quality Sleep
There’s a paradox of sleeplessness for many new parents: the baby is up half the night crying and nursing, but when the baby goes to sleep, you may struggle to follow suit. It’s common to face a combination of insomnia and fatigue. Compounding this further is that the little quality sleep you get may be interrupted by a screaming newborn. It’s enough to make anyone feel like they’re losing their mind.
CBD offers numerous sleep benefits. It can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. If you have issues during REM sleep—the critical period of sleep during which dreams help you process the events of the day—CBD can help. For parents whose babies wake them up every time they drift into a dream, a little CBD oil may be all it takes for the brain to recover from disrupted sleep. Better still, CBD may help people feel more awake during the day.
Reduced Risk of Depression
New parenthood changes everything about your life. You’re probably overwhelmed by the love you feel for this tiny person, but deeply terrified about your ability to raise them, teach them, and send them out into a scary world.
A combination of hormonal swings, physical health issues, anxiety about parenting, lack of support, and numerous other challenges mean that many new parents—dads included—develop postpartum depression. Some feel deeply ashamed for not being happy enough. Others seek help and find only stigma and judgment.
With CBD oil, you can treat postpartum depression in the comfort of your own home. Numerous studies have shown that CBD may ease depression symptoms. Anhedonia—the inability to feel happiness or joy—is for many new parents the hardest part of postpartum depression. A 2016 study, for example, found that CBD can promote feelings of happiness in rats. Several other studies of animals suggest that CBD is a powerful antidepressant that can improve motivation and eliminate feelings of despair.
For many women, the postpartum period is incredibly painful. Cracked nipples from breastfeeding, pain from giving birth, cramps and muscle spasms from a weak pelvic floor, headaches from sleeping in awkward positions and the unending fatigue of it all can make an otherwise happy period incredibly miserable. Researchers have found that CBD can ease inflammation, which causes both short and long-term pain. Several other studies have linked CBD use to a decrease in several different types of pain.
Is it Safe?
Safety matters more than ever when a tiny person depends on you. Some parents worry about the effects of CBD. It doesn’t help things that many agencies have issued statements cautioning against the use of CBD. These statements, however, are rooted in fear and bias, not research. There is no evidence that CBD is harmful when used in small or moderate doses. Moreover, quality CBD won’t get you high because the THC content is minimal or nonexistent. This means you can safely use it even when you’re driving or taking care of children.
What about breastfeeding? There hasn’t been much research on breastfeeding while using CBD, though there is no evidence of any harm. To learn more about the safety of breastfeeding while using CBD, read our article on the topic here.