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Puff, Puff, Pass?: Marijuana Could Be Affecting Your Fertility

October 8, 2018
Katie Visco

Although there are a variety of studies pointing to marijuana and limited harmful effects on the body – as a matter of fact, many studies pointing to the benefits marijuana has on the human body – scientists have been working to study the link between marijuana use and fertility in men and women. For those worried about how your drug use, both prescription and recreational, could be affecting your fertility, you’re in the right place. Here’s what we’re going to lay out on the table:

  • What we already know about marijuana and fertility
  • Current studies studying the link between marijuana use and fertility
  • Other drugs – prescription and recreational – that should be avoided to protect your fertility.

Marijuana’s Effect on Your Fertility

Is recreational drug use reducing your likelihood of conceiving?

It’s generally accepted within the scientific community that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in marijuana, can have adverse effects on male fertility by inhibiting both sperm production and development of the sperm mobility apparatus.

Many hypothesize that fertility is affected because healthy sperm usually enters a state of hyperactivation. This provides a “push” that is essential for penetrating an egg. Marijuana, however, prevents this hyperactivation, leading to lower rates of fertilization. When a female smokes, THC can appear in her cervical mucus and similarly prevent hyperactivation.

It is also said that THC can cross the placental barrier and be secreted in breast milk of breastfeeding mothers. Although scientists have not identified how harmful this could be to mother and baby, it’s likely better to keep your unborn child away from active ingredients of illicit drugs whenever possible.

New Studies Developing to Link Marijuana Use and Infertility

Doctors at the University of Washington Medical Center Begin to Weigh In

Dr. Thomas Walsh at the University of Washington Medical Center is leading a study to explore the negative impacts of marijuana use on men’s reproductive health. In addition to what previous scientific and medical studies tell us, Dr. Walsh notes that sperm counts are decreasing in states where recreational marijuana is legalized. Although he is avoiding drawing a conclusion based on this alone, he is exploring whether or not there is a link between decreased sperm counts in men and recreational marijuana use. With more states legalizing marijuana, he says his study will be able to grow and draw much more consistent conclusions.

Some studies have shown that chronic smoking could affect testosterone and therefore affect sperm production.

Here is a summary of the more recent studies regarding marijuana usage, fertility, and fetal effects:

  • This study proposes that frequent marijuana usage can lead to less frequent ovulation
  • Some larger studies have seen a link between marijuana usage and hormone disruption, which could affect fertility
  • A study of Danish men found that chronic marijuana usage lowered sperm count

There is a lot of conflicting evidence, however, and many claim that marijuana use does not affect fertility. More evidence is pointing to chronic usage affecting fertility but in reversible ways. Using marijuana frequently versus occasionally could potentially make a difference.

Regardless, many fertility clinics recommend stopping marijuana use at least a month before trying to conceive or seeking treatment. As traces of the drug leave your system, your hormones and fertility can change. Ceasing usage and then seeking treatment allows for professionals to get a more accurate perspective on your fertility.

What Other Drugs and Medicines Should You Avoid if You’re Trying to Conceive?

Drugs that could be negatively affecting sperm health and fertility

A variety of drugs can negatively affect sperm count, motility, and can cause deformation. In addition, certain drugs can alter sexual function and vital hormone balances necessary for sexual and reproductive health. For those trying to conceive, here are some guidelines on what to avoid:

  1. Tobacco, alcohol, and (until further research proves otherwise) marijuana
  2. Testosterone supplements
  3. Flomax – treats urinary problems, but could decrease a man’s ability to ejaculate
  4. Proscar and Propecia (Finasteride) – treat BPH and male pattern baldness, but could decrease ejaculate volume
  5. Psychiatric Medicines – tricyclic antidepressants and SSRs can cause sexual dysfunction
  6. Opiates – low doses can affect fertility and sexual function, and high doses can cause erectile dysfunction, low sperm production, and low libido
  7. Sulfasalazine and Infliximab – treat Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease, but could decrease sperm motility and morphology

Of course, contact your doctor before stopping any medications you are currently taking, and discuss with a fertility expert the factors that could be affecting your fertility. With a doctor’s advice and working to maintain a happier, healthier you, you and your partner could be on the road to a successful pregnancy.

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