Does marijuana affect fertility?
The first time I heard “Next Episode” and Dr. Dre ended the song with the recommendation “Smoke weed everyday!” – I pondered to myself “Is he even board-certified? He clearly has no business giving anyone medical advice”.
In all seriousness – while marijuana use has become more widely accepted and normalized in recent years, and even legalized in certain states- concerns remain about its potential impact on fertility. While research on this topic is still limited and somewhat inconclusive, there is evidence to suggest that marijuana may affect fertility in both men and women.
In men, marijuana has been found to potentially impact fertility in several ways. The active compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can alter hormone production, leading to changes in testosterone levels. Lower testosterone levels can result in reduced sperm production and poorer sperm quality. Some studies have shown that regular marijuana use is associated with decreased sperm count, motility (the ability of sperm to move), and morphology (the shape and structure of sperm). These factors are essential for successful fertilization, and their impairment can contribute to male infertility.
Additionally, THC can bind to cannabinoid receptors in the sperm cell membrane, potentially affecting their ability to fertilize an egg. However, it’s worth noting that the effects of marijuana on male fertility may be reversible. Abstaining from marijuana use for an extended period could result in improvements in sperm parameters. It takes ~72 days to generate new sperm cells, so it could take 3+ months to see a true improvement after quitting.
In women, the effects of marijuana on fertility are less clear. There is some evidence to suggest that marijuana use can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods and unpredictable ovulation. This can make it more challenging to conceive. Moreover, THC can also affect the female reproductive system by impacting hormone levels, including the hormones that regulate ovulation and support early pregnancy. This hormonal disruption could potentially lead to fertility issues.
Another area of concern is the potential effect of marijuana on the developing fetus during pregnancy. THC can cross the placenta and enter the fetal bloodstream, potentially affecting the baby’s development. Some studies have shown an increased risk of low birth weight and premature birth in babies exposed to marijuana in utero. However, more research is needed to understand the full extent of these risks.
It’s important to note that the majority of research on marijuana and fertility is based on observational studies, which can only show associations between marijuana use and fertility outcomes, not prove causation. The existing research often relies on self-reported marijuana use, which could be subject to biases and inaccuracies. Additionally, many factors can contribute to fertility issues, and it may be challenging to isolate the specific impact of marijuana use in these cases.
In conclusion, while the research on marijuana’s effects on fertility is not yet definitive, there is evidence to suggest that it may have adverse effects on both male and female reproductive health. For individuals trying to conceive or experiencing fertility issues (and ESPECIALLY those who are already pregnant), please take advice from this board-certified OBGYN and fertility doctor, not Dr. Dre – that there is enough evidence to recommend that people should eliminate marijuana exposure.
My name is Lucky Sekhon and I'm a double board-certified OBGYN, and Reproductive Endocrinologist & infertility specialist practicing at RMA of New York. My mission is to empower women with practical and scientifically accurate information to make the right fertility decisions for themselves.
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