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Eating Hemp Seeds When Pregnant: Safety, Benefits And Side Effects

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Most women wonder about the safety of consuming hemp seeds in pregnancy since it comes from commercial hemp plants (Cannabis sativa) that belong to the same species as marijuana. Hemp seeds are brown, nutty-flavored seeds packed with essential nutrients such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Pregnant women need these nutrients for optimal growth and development of the baby.

Read this post about the possible benefits and risks of ingesting hemp seeds in pregnancy.

Safety Of Hemp Seeds For Pregnant Women

The US Food And Drug Administration (US FDA) recognizes hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil safe for human consumption (1). Although commercial hemp seeds and marijuana come from the same species, they are derived from different varieties or cultivars.

Hemp plants are a Cannabis sativa cultivar with less than 0.3% of THC, which is the psychoactive substance of marijuana. Hemp plants may contain more cannabidiol (CBD), which is a non-psychoactive substance. The compounds THC and CBD are mostly found in the stems, flowers, and leaves (2).

Hemp seeds may contain a minuscule amount of THC and CBD, but these are insufficient to cause any psychogenic effects. The FDA says that “these amounts are low enough to not raise concerns for any group, including pregnant or breastfeeding mothers (3).” Nevertheless, THC and CBD are cannabinoids that could affect the mother and her baby’s health in high doses. Thus, consult your doctor to know if you can consume hemp seeds and in what quantity.

Nutritional Value Of Hemp Seeds

Whole hemp seed has a crisp outer covering and a soft center. When the whole seed is hulled (outer covering removed), it leaves a soft center behind, known as hemp heart, shelled hemp, or hemp nut.

Here’s a brief overview of nutrients in three tablespoons (30g) of hulled hemp seeds and how much of those nutrients a pregnant woman aged between 19 and 30 years should consume each day (4) (5).

NutrientsAmountRDA
Protein9.48g71g
Calcium, Ca21mg1000mg
Iron, Fe2.38mg27g
Magnesium, Mg210mg350mg
Phosphorus, P495mg700mg
Potassium, K360mg2900mg
Zinc, Zn2.97mg11mg
Niacin2.76mg18mg
Folate, total33µg600µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)0.24mg15mg

Source: US Food Data Central and Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2020-2025

Possible Health Benefits Of Hemp Seeds During Pregnancy

Hemp hearts are a highly nutritious food that contains several nutrients beneficial for you and your baby. Here’s how regular consumption of hemp seeds in moderation and as a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet may benefit you.

  1. Support body functions: Hemp seeds have several nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Your body requires these nutrients to carry out different body functions essential for a healthy pregnancy. For instance, hemp seeds contain a considerable amount of iron which could help avert iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in pregnancy. IDA may lead to complications in the newborn, such as premature birth, low birth weight, or poor growth (6).
  1. Aid baby’s growth and development: Hemp hearts contain significant amounts of plant protein that can contribute to your total protein requirement. Pregnant women need more protein during pregnancy to support the growth of fetal tissue (including the brain) and breast and uterine tissues. Also, it plays a pivotal role in increasing your blood supply (7). Additionally, hemp seeds have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which help in healthy fetal brain and eye development (8).
  1. Keeps digestive system healthy: Expecting mothers between the ages of 19 and 30 require 28 to 36g of fiber per 1000 calories (5). Three tablespoons of hemp seeds offer 1.2 grams of dietary fiber, which can contribute to your total fiber needs (4). Consuming optimum amounts of fiber is vital to add bulk to the diet and maintain healthy bowel movements, which helps keep constipation and related issues away.
  1. Maintains heart health: Hemp seeds contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in ratios that promote heart health (9). Additionally, they contain high amounts of magnesium, which facilitates the active transportation of potassium and calcium across the cell membrane and supports normal heartbeat (10).

Besides these, hemp seeds contain several bioactive compounds that confer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that promote overall health and well-being (11).

Possible Side Effects Of Hemp Seeds During Pregnancy

Hemp seeds have several benefits, but they may have certain side effects. Here’s what you should know, especially when you are consuming hemp seeds for the first time.

  1. Gastrointestinal problems: Consuming hemp seeds may cause upset stomach or diarrhea in sensitive individuals. Hence, ingest only a small amount of hemp seeds, such as half a teaspoon, for the first time. Then, gradually increase the quantity, depending on your digestion.
  1. Allergy: Hemp seed allergy isn’t common but possible (12). The symptoms of hemp seed allergy include wheezing, abdominal cramps, hives or skin rash, and eye redness. In rare cases, severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis, may also occur.
  1. Drug interaction: Hemp seeds could interact with drugs that support blood clotting, such as anticoagulants (warfarin), and treat irregular heartbeat (digoxin). Consuming diuretics with hemp seeds may cause dangerously low potassium levels, which could adversely affect your heart.

Other Hemp Seed Products You Can Have During Pregnancy

Besides hemp seeds, mothers can include hemp seed oil, hemp seed milk, and hemp seed protein powder in their diet. These hemp seeds products contain little or no THC and CBD and are usually safe for pregnant women.

However, to ensure your and your baby’s safety, you must talk to your healthcare professional. Depending on your and your child’s health, your healthcare provider will guide you on whether these products are safe for you and in what quantities.

Hemp seeds are nutrient-rich foods that can provide several health benefits. The seeds must be consumed in small quantities to avoid potential overconsumption of THC and CBD. You must speak to your healthcare provider before consuming hemp seeds. Consume hemp seeds in moderation by including them in various food items in your diet.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD).
    https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  2. Defining Hemp: A Fact Sheet.
    https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R44742.pdf
  3. What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding.
    https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding
  4. Seeds, hemp seed, hulled, FDC ID: 170148.
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170148/nutrients
  5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
    https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  6. Anemia in Pregnancy.
    https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/a/anemia-in-pregnancy.html
  7. Pregnancy Nutrition.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/pregnancy-nutrition/
  8. Pregnant Safe Sources of Omega-3 Fats.
    https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/what-to-eat-when-expecting/pregnant-safe-sources-of-omega-3-fats
  9. Barbara Farinon et al.; (2020); The Seed of Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400098/
  10. Magnesium.
    https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium#cardiovascular-disease-prevention
  11. Luana Izzo et al.; (2020); Chemical Analysis of Minor Bioactive Components and Cannabidiolic Acid in Commercial Hemp Seed Oil.
    https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/25/16/3710/pdf
  12. Kristen Bortolin et al.; (2016); Case Series of 5 Patients with Anaphylaxis to Hemp Seed Ingestion.
    https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(15)02711-6/fulltext
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Dr. Irene (Eirini) Orfanoudaki

(PhD, MD)
Dr. Irene (Eirini) Orfanoudaki is a gynecologist-obstetrician, having a private practice in Heraklion, Crete, and collaborating with private health clinic 'MITERA' - Euromeda in Heraklion. With more than two decades of experience as a gynecologist-obstetrician, she specializes in ultrasound, colposcopy, minimal and advance gynecologic surgery, aesthetic gynecology, fertility consulting, menopause consulting, operative obstetrics, high-risk pregnancy, normal deliveries, antenatal, intra-parum, postnatal... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more