Despite the relaxation effects that many people associate with marijuana use, research has shown marijuana has negative effects on the male sexual response.
Research suggests that marijuana can negatively affect female fertility in the following ways:
Although the link between marijuana and fertility is not straightforward—plenty of marijuana smokers get pregnant and get their partners pregnant—some research has demonstrated that marijuana use can negatively impact you, your partner, or the fertility of both of you.
Furthermore, the effects of marijuana on fertility seem to accumulate over time. This means that although teenage girls who smoke marijuana are more likely to get pregnant, by the time a chronic marijuana smoking woman is in her mid-twenties, she may be more likely to experience a delay in getting pregnant.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Quitting marijuana can be harder than many long-term marijuana users expect, so you and your partner would be wise to quit as soon as possible, while you still have time to get help before getting pregnant. If either or both parents still use marijuana when the baby arrives, you are increasing the risk that your child may use drugs in the future, and parental drug use is implicated in many difficulties for children and families.
Obviously, if you are both smoking marijuana, you risk increasing the chances of infertility as a couple.
Fact: Many men who produce little or no sperm have treatable conditions that can be addressed with fertility treatments or the help of a Urologist. Lifestyle changes—such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and staying out of hot tubs—may also help.
Fact: Smoking marijuana, even infrequently, can dramatically affect sperm and egg quality, which can have a dramatic impact on fertility.
Fact: Infertility means that you have been unable to have a child naturally after a year of trying (or 6 months if you are over the age of 35). With the proper treatment, the majority of people go on to have children.
Infertility Myth #8: A man’s fertility doesn’t change with age.
Fact: While some men can father children into their 50’s or 60’s, male fertility isn’t age-proof. Men see a decline in fertility in their 40s, and also have been found to be at increased risk of offspring with certain health conditions, like schizophrenia.
Fact: Poor nutrition can have an impact on fertility. Women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 or those who are severely underweight may have difficulties with fertility. Click here to download a BMI reference chart.
Fact: In conception, timing is everything. Women are the most fertile in the middle of their menstrual cycle. Experts recommend intercourse every other day in this period to increase the likelihood of natural conception.
Fact: Alcohol can increase the risk of birth defects once a woman becomes pregnant and can cause a collection of birth defects known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There is no known “safe” amount of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy, so it is generally recommended that women avoid alcohol in pregnancy.
However, most of these findings are far from conclusive. Either the study included very few participants or confounding factors such as tobacco use aren’t taken into consideration. In fact, more recent research, like this review on infants who were exposed to marijuana in-utero, concludes there aren’t any adverse risks.
In a 1994 study, it was found that mammalian sperm, including that of humans, is actually incapable of fertilizing oocytes (eggs) immediately after leaving the testes. It requires a period of exposure to certain crucial hormones, enzymes and proteins on its journey through the vas deferens and ejaculatory ducts of the male reproductive system (as well as the reproductive fluids of the female vagina and oviducts) before becoming “capacitated” and able to fertilize an egg.
Other studies seen as providing evidence that cannabis use can cause foetal abnormalities are animal studies (Geber & Schramm 1969, Phillipset al, 1971) in which rabbits, hamsters, rats and mice were injected with vast doses of crude cannabis extract (as much as 666mg/kg in one instance!). Such massive doses of cannabis would be practically impossible for a human to consume through conventional means, and are essentially useless as a point of comparison.
Why is anandamide beneficial, while THC may not be?
To understand how cannabis may affect fertility, we must understand the effect it has specifically on males and on females. We’ll start by looking at the effects on the male reproductive system, and then focus on the more complicated effects on female fertility.
Some studies on the effect of cannabis use on male fertility have indicated that regular use may reduce spermatogenesis (the production of sperm in the testes) and testosterone levels.
Past research has indicated that cannabis use may disrupt the menstrual cycle, suppress oogenesis (production of eggs in the ovaries) and impair embryo implantation and development. Chronic use of cannabis has also been repeatedly associated with lower birth weight (as much as a 50% increased risk), decreased birth weight and early (spontaneous) termination of pregnancy.
For healthy adult males, it seems that use of THC does indeed cause some negative effects on fertility, which tend to increase with higher doses. However, THC’s endogenous analogue anandamide appears to be critical to the functioning of the male reproductive system.