Cannabis and fertility in men and women
Fertility is a complicated aspect of your biology, and it’s impacted by a variety of factors: your genes, your lifestyle, and possibly, whether or not you use cannabis.
While more research needs to be done, a startling number of studies point to several ways in which using marijuana may hinder your ability to conceive.
If you use cannabis and are concerned about your ability to become pregnant or get someone pregnant, keep reading to learn how this drug affects both men and women when it comes to fertility and what you can do if you think you might be struggling with cannabis addiction.
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How Does Cannabis Affect Male Fertility?
Male fertility is largely impacted by cannabis via sperm health. Sperm have cannabinoid receptors on them, which scientists suggest means cannabis has the ability to affect sperm function. From count to motility, there are a few important ways cannabis can interfere with sperm’s ability to perform and therefore impact your fertility.
Multiple studies have been conducted to assess how marijuana use impacts sperm count. For example, one study found that men who used cannabis at least once a week had an almost 30 per cent reduction in sperm count. , This reduction was present even six weeks after they stopped using marijuana. More.
One research review from 2019 looked at 48 different studies on cannabis and fertility and found extensive evidence that cannabis negatively impacts sperm motility. ‘Motility’ refers to sperm’s ability to “swim,” which is how they move through the fallopian tubes and successfully fertilize an egg. Sperm must efficiently move towards the egg before they die in order for fertilization to take place, making sperm motility very important for fertility.
Sperm Morphology and Viability
The morphology of sperm includes its size and shape, while its viability encapsulates its overall health and longevity. Studies have found that using cannabis affects both sperm morphology and viability negatively.
The same 2019 review found that cannabis can cause abnormal morphology in sperm, as well as decreased viability. It should be noted that many of the studies in this review were conducted on animals. It’s important that more studies are conducted with human test subjects so we can continue to learn how cannabis affects sperm health.
Outside of sperm health, using marijuana impacts men’s reproductive hormones. For example, research has shown that the luteinizing hormone is negatively affected by cannabis use. This hormone helps regulate testosterone levels, making it an important part of fertility.
And finally, evidence points to marijuana having a negative impact on sexual performance.
Studies show that erectile dysfunction is twice as common in cannabis users compared to those who don’t use the drug.
It’s thought that cannabis can contribute to erectile dysfunction by damaging the endothelial cells, which live inside your blood vessels and play a role in maintaining erections. While ED is common amongst a wide variety of men and doesn’t necessarily reflect poor fertility if you’re struggling to maintain erections it can be much more difficult to have sexual intercourse and therefore conceive a child.
How Does Cannabis Affect Female Fertility?
The relationship between cannabis and female fertility is a bit more difficult to examine, as researchers don’t have as many clear measures to look at as they do in men, such as semen and sperm health.
However, limited studies have found a few troubling connections between frequent marijuana use and fertility in women that need to be studied further.
Scientists have long known that smoking tobacco affects ovulation, but a 2016 study now shows that marijuana can disrupt your menstrual cycle and might be the culprit behind anovulatory cycles: cycles in which no viable egg is released.
Other studies have found that marijuana can delay ovulation cycles as well, which doesn’t necessarily impact your overall fertility but may cause you to miscalculate your window of fertility during a month when you use cannabis.
Marijuana has the ability to impact ovulation because of the way it interacts with your sex hormones.
Just like in men, marijuana can affect your levels of the luteinizing hormone (LH). While LH regulates testosterone levels in men, in women it stimulates ovulation.
High levels of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, can also decrease estrogen production in women. Without an estrogen spike, ovulation doesn’t occur, which can further impact your fertility in the short-term.
Other Ways Cannabis Can Influence Fertility
Outside of the gender-specific factors that cannabis may be affecting, there are a few other surprising ways in which this drug may make it harder for you to conceive.
While a low libido doesn’t have any significant relationship with your biological fertility, it can still greatly impact your likelihood of getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant by causing you to have less sex. Cannabis can often lower libido in both men and women, which places one more roadblock on the path to conceiving a child.
Exacerbate Pre-Existing Conditions
Due to the various and complicated effects marijuana can have on your fertility, it can worsen any difficulties that you may already have in getting pregnant.
THC interferes with your endocannabinoid system, and the complexity of this biological system impacts every aspect of fertility.
If you’re already struggling with conceiving a child, ceasing marijuana use could help ease any pre-existing conditions you might be facing with your fertility.
New, Conflicting Evidence Points Other Way
Over the years, various studies have found evidence of a negative relationship between consuming cannabis and fertility. However, many of these studies were performed on animals, and it can be difficult to properly extrapolate data points from animals to human beings—especially in such a complex system as reproduction and fertility.
In addition, a recent study out of Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health refutes findings from many previous studies performed on the topic. Overall, they determined there’s no evidence of the harmful effects of cannabis on fertility. In fact, the study actually found a positive relationship between the two. Men who had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime had higher concentrations of sperm than men who had never used the drug.
Altogether, this shows that more research must be done to examine the relationship between cannabis consumption and fertility.
How to Promote Fertility?
Your fertility is not only personal but also deeply complex. There are a wide range of factors that can affect how well you’re able to become pregnant or get someone else pregnant, and cannabis could certainly be one of these factors.
Because research is still being done on the exact relationship between marijuana and fertility, it’s best to err on the side of caution and stop using marijuana if you’re trying to conceive or are concerned about your fertility.
While many people use cannabis without developing an addiction, there are many ways it could be negatively impacting your health. In addition to your fertility, it can cause issues with your sleep, your moods, and your relationships with the people you love.