Maryjane. Cannabis. Reefer. THC. Pot. Marijuana. Dope. CBD. Weed. No matter how you refer to it, this controversial little plant has gotten a lot of media attention in recent years! And as more and more states move toward the legalization of recreational marijuana, some may begin to wonder: Can cannabis use affect my fertility?
It seems like so many claims are being made that marijuana can help a wide variety of ailments… Could infertility be one of them? Or is it possible that marijuana could actually decrease your fertility and interfere with your efforts to conceive?
What’s the Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana, THC, and CBD?
There are a lot of names used for cannabis that all have slightly different meanings. So let’s talk about that! Cannabis sativa is the Latin name for an herbal plant. The word “marijuana” is typically used to refer to this plant and its many uses. Marijuana has traditionally been thought of as an inhaled drug (either in a cigarette, cigar, or vape pen). But it can also be eaten in foods, or taken medicinally or recreationally as an extract.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive component found in cannabis. It has a slightly shorter growth cycle than CBD. Most cannabis that is used for medicinal or recreational purposes has a high concentration of THC (normally between five and 35 percent). Products that contain THC can be used in foods, topical medications, and tincture oils.
Cannabidiol (often called CBD) is not psychoactive and has a longer growing cycle. Most CBD products have a very low percentage of THC (usually less than 0.3 percent THC). CBD can be used in food, beauty products, and medications.
How Does Marijuana Act in the Body?
People ingest cannabis derivatives for a number of different reasons. Most of these reasons involve an attempt to make their body feel a certain way after they consume cannabis. Whether they are trying to relax, achieve a high, relieve pain, or increase appetite, marijuana acts in a variety of ways in the body.
Psychological Effects of Marijuana
Cannabis changes the way your brain processes information, so it can cause memory problems, especially with repeated use over time. Cannabis can also slow your reaction time, which can make driving and other tasks that require quick thinking skills more dangerous.
A brain chemical called dopamine is responsible for heightening the senses and causing a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. Dopamine is also one of the hormones responsible for the pain- and inflammation-relieving effects of marijuana use.
Physical Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana and its byproducts affect the physical body in a variety of ways.
- Immune system: Unfortunately, THC can suppress the immune system, which can make you more immune to infectious illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria. But for those with autoimmune disease, suppressing the immune system can decrease flares of the autoimmune condition.
- Eyes: Cannabis can lower the pressure in the eyes, which can help glaucoma symptoms.
- Appetite and digestion: You’ve probably heard of someone who smokes pot getting “the munchies.” That happens because of the appetite increase that comes along with marijuana usage. This can especially help cancer or late-stage AIDS patients who are struggling with their appetites.
- Respiratory system: Smokers who use traditional tobacco cigarettes know the risks of lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and stroke. But it is less commonly known that smoking marijuana can have some of the same negative effects on the respiratory system. Cannabis smoke contains a lot of the same carcinogens and toxins as tobacco smoke.
- Cardiovascular effects: THC also puts additional stress on the heart.
Can Marijuana Affect Fertility?
Just like cannabis affects all the other body systems, it has some effects upon the endocrine and reproductive systems as well. This is true for both males and females.
The Effect of Cannabis on Female Fertility
Long-term exposure to THC can affect the pituitary gland, slowing luteinizing hormone and prolactin hormone production. Women who smoke marijuana regularly are at risk of not ovulating because high doses of cannabis use can throw a wrench in your menstrual cycle. Higher doses of cannabis can also interfere with a woman’s sex drive, which makes natural conception less likely.
The Effect of Cannabis on Male Fertility
Marijuana usage has been associated with lower sperm count, sperm quality, and concentration of sperm in the semen. It can also affect sperm morphology (shape), motility (ability to swim and maneuver through the uterus and fallopian tubes),, and viability (ability to successfully fertilize an egg). Cannabis has been shown to reduce libido in males as well as females. In animal studies, cannabis usage led to atrophy of the testicles as well.
Still Have More Questions About Cannabis and Fertility?
Do you use cannabis medicinally or recreationally? Are you trying to conceive or considering fertility treatments? Be sure to mention your cannabis use to your fertility doctor to receive the best advice for your particular situation. This is [particularly true if you rely on THC or CBD for your daily functioning. (This might include pain relief, controlling the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, or cannabis dependency.)
At Integrative Fertility M.D., we understand that your medical situation is unique. We would love to chat with you about how we can help you in your journey to conception and parenthood. Get in touch today to book a consultation!