Summary (tl;dr) – Smoking weed can have a significantly negative impact on almost every aspect of getting pregnant. Smoking weed has been linked to sperm motility deficits, hormone imbalances, and female infertility. The scientific evidence is indisputable. Both males and females looking to conceive should abstain from all recreational marijuana use for at least a 60 days before attempting to conceive.
Planning for a family can be one of the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking, times of your life. The happy thoughts of baby bottles soon littering the house can eventually conjure up enough anxiety to warrant a bong hit. Imagining the warmth of a child in your arms is coupled with planning which Indicas help with the inevitable lack of shut-eye you always hear so much about.
When considering bringing a new life into the world, it’s natural to contemplate how a child will affect your ability to smoke weed. The internal dialogue surrounding the balance of marijuana use and parenthood can quickly spiral out of control: Is it responsible to smoke weed while taking care of your newborn? Will other parents judge you? Will your kids love you less because they can tell you’re high?!
Many a parent-to-be worry they’ll have to give up smoking weed once they have kids. While it’s entirely feasible to transition into parenthood without giving up the ganja, lighting up could prevent you from becoming a parent in the first place. That’s right… While the beloved cannabis plant is unparalleled in its ability to help you squeeze the most out of life, it might actually render you infertile.
Before we jump into whether or not smoking weed affects your fertility, it’s important to first get a basic understanding of the male and female reproduction systems. Let’s dig in.
Getting Pregnant — The Male Reproductive System
In order to successfully reproduce, an organism must create sex cells (known as gametes) that contain its genetic material. In males, this creation is made in the gonads (i.e. testicles) and known as sperm (the long form name is actually spermatozoa). Sperm is mixed in with a variety of enzymes to create a viscous fluid for the sperm to swim in: semen. New sperm are produced every day after a male reaches puberty until the day he dies. Sperm usually takes an average of 59 days to fully mature.
Illustration of Male Sperm Swimming In Semen | Image Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki
During the ejaculation process, assuming its done while the male penis is penetrating a female’s vagina, this semen is forcefully discharged so as to make contact with the female’s genetic material—initiating the fertilization process. There are over a hundred million sperm contained within the average ejaculate and only a lucky ten thousand or so make it to the fallopian tubes.
Getting Pregnant — The Female Reproductive System
Females are born with all the sex cells (i.e. eggs) they will ever have– stored in their ovaries. Thus, females don’t create sex cells continuously the way men do. They instead develop and release them within the window of puberty and menopause.
During certain intervals of a female’s menstrual cycle, typically a week to ten days after menstruation (i.e. their period), a mature egg is released from the ovary where it travels to the fallopian tubes. It is here where it will either meet a sperm to initiate the fertilization process or be flushed out during the next menstruation period. If fertilization did occur, the fertilized egg, known as a zygote, is ushered to the uterus, where it sticks to the endometrium tissue lining the walls and incubates for 9 months.
Diagram of Female Eggs Leaving The Ovary | Image Credit: Rhino Fertility
It’s important to note that during the period when the egg is waiting to be fertilized (ovulation), the lining of the uterus thickens in order to prepare for a fertilized egg. This lining is also flushed out during the next menstruation period if no fertilization occurs.
How Smoking Weed Affects Male Fertility
Unfortunately for fathers-to-be, the evidence linking marijuana use with decreased sperm production and motility (how well those little guys swim) is insurmountable. The impact of marijuana use on a male’s fertility takes multiple forms, which we’ve outlined below.
Marijuana use affects hormones utilized in the fertility process
Marijuana users consistently show decreased levels of luteinizing hormone– a hormone that acts on the cells that eventually produce testosterone. Thus, it’s no surprise that plasma testosterone levels are also lower after chronic intensive marijuana use.
This chain of low luteinizing hormone causing reduce testosterone secretion results in reduced spermatogenesis (the creation of sperm). This ultimately leads to low semen count (oligospermia), which severely decreases the chances of a sperm reaching the egg. Strength is in numbers when it comes to fertilization.
Marijuana use directly impacts sperm motility and cellular function
Did you know that each sperm has its own set of cannabinoid receptors? The CB2 receptors on sperm has been shown to regulate human sperm cell motility. When you smoke cannabis, about .02% of the THC content ends up in your testes. The presence of THC in the testes is suspected to overstimulate the endocannabinoid receptors there and in your sperm, altering sperm motility and potentially resulting in male infertility.
This finding is dose-dependent, meaning that the more THC present in your system, the higher the impact on your sperm. These findings were confirmed by the observation that with greater THC exposure to sperm comes a reduction in the total number of progressively motile sperm.
Check out the video below for a primer the differences in sperm motility.
Activation of the endocannabinoid receptors on sperm can also inhibit capacition-induced acrosomal induction– a process where the sperm changed its head structure in order to successfully penetrate an egg. Not undergoing this process makes a sperm ineffective.
A majority of the early research surrounding the effects of marijuana on fertility concentrated on the observation that sperm would become hyperactive after ejaculation, rendering them “burnt out” and incapable of reaching the egg. THC can also initiate sperm cell suicide: apoptosis. A majority of these effects are attributed to THC and anandamide (a neurotransmitter released by the endocannabinoid system) causing abnormal mitochondrial activity within sperm.
A majority of the early research surrounding the effects of marijuana on fertility concentrated on the observation that sperm would become hyperactive after ejaculation, rendering them “burnt out” and incapable of sustaining the stamina necessary to reach the egg.
How Smoking Weed Affects Female Fertility
Much as cannabinoid receptors were found in sperm cells, they are present in the female ovaries, the uterine endometrium, and even the developing embryo. High levels of anandamide are necessary for successful ovulation, so it would seem at first glance that smoking weed would increase your chances of ovulation. Right?
Well, unfortunately, lower levels are advantageous for the binding of a fertilized egg to the uterine lining. The endocannabinoid system is incredibly fickle throughout the fertilization process. Tweaking the natural presence of anandamide can result in a great deal of pregnancy failure and female infertility.
Interestingly enough, the average time to conception was significantly shorter for women who had used marijuana regularly. Perhaps those females were having more sex due to the aphrodisiac effects of cannabis and, thereby, increased their chances of success?
Smoking Weed DOES Hurt Your Chances Of Getting Pregnant
The evidence that showcases the various ways in which marijuana use affects fertility in both males and females is massive. Despite the incredible amount of unexpected pregnancies we regularly hear about, getting pregnant is a pretty fickle process! A female can only get pregnant a couple of days each month and the journey from the testes to the fallopian tubes is incredibly arduous. Thus, anyone serious about starting a family should seriously consider taking a break from smoking. You definitely need all the odds in your favor! You wouldn’t want to end up in peril like Monica and Chandler when they found out they couldn’t conceive…
Of course, if you are using marijuana for medical purposes you shouldn’t stop treatment; marijuana doesn’t make it impossible to conceive, it just makes it that much harder.
It’s important to note that the effects of marijuana on getting pregnant, from both a male and female perspective, are temporary. Smoking marijuana does not make you permanently infertile! It merely limits your reproductive capabilities in a window surrounding your use. Since sperm takes an average of 60 days to fully mature, refraining from marijuana use won’t show any positive effects on your sperm until then. To increase your chances of fertility, we suggest both males and females refraining from marijuana use for 60 days before trying to get pregnant.
Pro Tip: CBD can actually help to block THC from activating cannabinoid receptors and creating adverse side effects by way of an anandamide imbalance. If you’re going to continue using marijuana while trying to conceive, we’d strongly suggest mixing some High CBD Strains into your concoctions.
Pro Tip #2: Chili peppers (i.e. their active ingredient, capsaicin) can also help release anandamide. Restraining from spicy foods might also assist with getting pregnant.
While it may seem difficult to take a break from smoking marijuana, at least you’ll be having a lot of sex and you’ll get your tolerance back! For males, returning to marijuana after successfully getting pregnant can be a fantastic form of celebration. You’ll have the munchies and strange cravings right alongside your pregnant counterpart.