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How Cannabis Use Affects Fertility in Men and Women

By Dr. Dongfeng Zhou, AP, DAOM

How Cannabis Use Affects Fertility in Men and Women

For most couples out there, having babies is the next big plan after walking down the aisle. This is understandably so because people usually get married in the hopes of having and raising their own kids. Although it often looks as if they have everything perfected, that, sadly, is not always the case. In some instances, couples struggle with infertility, which, according to the WHO, is the ability to have a baby after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. While there are many obvious causes of infertility, not many know that people who use cannabis are at risk of becoming infertile. You are surprised, right? No, you shouldn’t be. Just continue reading to learn more.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is also known as weed, pot, dope, grass, hemp, marijuana, ganja, and the list is endless. It is a group of three plants with psychoactive (mind-changing) properties. These plants are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The moment farmers harvest and dry these plants, they are turned into common drugs. Still, the useful parts of the plant include its tops, leaves, stems, and seeds. Its potency and balance depend on how the manufacturer grew and processed it.

People who consume these psychoactive drugs do so because they calm their frayed nerves and help them to relax. Much as hemp can be used for medicinal purposes, a good number of people use it for recreation. With respect to its content, the plant contains more than 120 components, which are collectively known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While CBD and THC have similar characteristics, the latter is the active ingredient of the drug and it contains lipophilic compounds with a prolonged half-life of 20-36 hours.

In other words, THC has strong psychoactive effects on its users. On the other hand, CBD helps in treating anxiety, seizures, and depression. Little wonder the plant has some medicinal value. However, there is a growing concern that more and more Americans use the drug for recreational purposes. According to a Gallup 2019 poll, about 12% of Americans said they have smoked marijuana.

It is used in several ways:

  • Smoking and vaping
  • Brewed as tea or coffee
  • Eaten raw
  • As capsules and supplements
  • As edibles – just the way people eat candies.

Where the plant is used for medical purposes, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says, it helps manage:

  • Chronic pain among adults
  • Symptoms of multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatment.

Other medicinal uses include facilitating sleep, and treating low appetite, fibromyalgia, and anxiety

Cannabis use and infertility among Women

Many women of reproductive age use hemp for recreation. They rarely think of their fertility while using the drugs. In truth, as a reproductive woman, long-term use of the psychoactive drug can lower your odds of having your own babies. Medical experts say that there is a complex relationship between endocannabinoid and sex hormones. During the reproductive cycle, the two regulate each other so as to expedite reproductive success. Therefore, anything that interrupts the interaction adversely affects a woman’s ability to conceive. In most cases, the drug delays ovulation.

Nevertheless, where a female hemp smoker has successfully conceived, the chances are that she may have a low-birthweight baby. One report heavy hemp smokers should find disturbing is that of the National Institute of Health (NIH). According to the NIH, women who have used recreational weed in the past are 41% less likely to conceive than nonsmokers. In addition, the NIH observed that in one study, the percentage of weed smokers who successfully conceived to nonsmokers who conceived was 42% versus 66%. Therefore, as a female hemp smoker, this report, without a doubt, should give you a cause to worry.

Cannabis Use and infertility among Men

Aside from the effects weed has on reproductive women, the male counterparts are not left out. This is particularly because studies have shown that men who use marijuana once every week risk having their total sperm count reduced by 29%. The reason, according to the researchers, is that weed disrupts sperm functions. Another study has also shown that men who use marijuana are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than those who don’t use the recreational drugs. In fact, medical scientists have cautioned men against smoking weed, adding that the practice can decrease sperm morbidity and worsen sperm malformation.

Furthermore, Dr. Mirra Srinivasan and her team carried out an extensive analysis on the effect of marijuana on male fertility. The team of researchers listed a number of adverse effects the drug has on the sperm cells, such as low sperm count, motility, morphology, capacitation, concertation, and viability. Other studies have also established the relationship between recreational weed use and numerous health conditions. These conditions include erectile dysfunction, testicular atrophy, and adverse reproductive hormonal changes (like luteinizing hormone).

While these research studies discourage the use of weed, it is worthy of note that men who heavily smoke weed can still have children. However, health experts have found strong evidence that hemp use among prospective fathers increases their children’s risk of autism. Autism is a child’s inability to socially interact due to poor communication capabilities or repetitive patterns of thoughts and behaviors. It simply means that the child’s brain works differently from the way others consider normal.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, years of studies across the US and the UK suggest that men who have used marijuana three months prior to having their semen samples examined often have abnormal sperm shape (morphology). This is often common among men of 30 years old and below. Additionally, this article has shown that heavy use of weed among men and women of reproductive age has adverse outcomes. Indeed, all the negative effects of recreational weeds have solid research evidence to back them up.

Therefore, all men and women who wish to have children in the near future must consider kicking the harmful habit because it does more harm than good. More importantly, if you are grappling with quitting hemp smoking, you can always talk to our specialists at the Zhou Wellness Center, as we have time-tested techniques that help smokers to quit the practice. So, get in touch with us now!

References

  1. Srinivasan M, Hamouda RK, Mohammed L. The effects of marijuana on the incidence and evolution of male infertility: a systematic review. Cureus. 2021 Dec 2; 13(12): e20119.
  2. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infertility. Revised September 14, 2020. Accessed March 15, 2022.
  3. Hrynowski Z. What percentage of Americans smoke marijuana? https://news.gallup.com/poll/284135/percentage-americans-smoke-marijuana.aspx. Revised July 1, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2022.
  4. Holland K. A quick take on cannabis and its effects. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-cannabis. Revised July 23, 2020. Accessed March 15, 2022.
  5. Harris N, LoRe M. Does marijuana use impact your infertility? Experts weigh in. https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/marijuana/marijuana-and-fertility. March 16, 2022.
  6. Ilnitsky S, Van Uum S. Marijuana and infertility. CMAJ. 2019 Jun 10; 191 (23): E638.
  7. What is autism? UK’s National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/what-is-autism/. Accessed March 20, 2022.
  8. Vinopal L. Is smoking weed really bad for sperm? Here’s what the science says. https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/smoking-weed-and-sperm-fertility-science/. Revised January 26, 2022. Accessed March 22, 2022.
  9. NIH study suggests using cannabis while trying to conceive may reduce pregnancy chances. National Institute of Health. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-suggests-using-cannabis-while-trying-conceive-may-reduce-pregnancy-chances#:~:text=For%20each%20monthly%20cycle%2C%20women,%E2%80%94%2042%25%20versus%2066%25. Revised January 11, 2021. Accessed March 20, 2022.
  10. How does marijuana affect male fertility? Urology Associates. https://denverurology.com/urology-blog/how-does-marijuana-effect-male-fertility/#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20men%20who%20use,after%20they%20stop%20using%20marijuana. Revised May 29, 2020. Accessed March 24, 2022.
  11. Davis K. Everything you need to know about cannabis. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246392. Revised June 30, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  12. Holland K. CBD vs. THC: what’s the difference? https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc. Revised July 20, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2022.
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