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Some recent studies suggest that marijuana can negatively affect fertility in both men and women. Read the article to learn about the correlation between marijuana and fertility to get informed about the latest findings. Learn about whether marijuana can cause infertility, including a review of research on marijuana's effects on women and men. According to a recent study, reported on in Forbes magazine, the chemicals in marijuana may prevent pregnancy by making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.

Three Ways Marijuana Can Affect Fertility

Some studies show that marijuana use negatively affects fertility in men and women. Many articles and physicians advise against using marijuana while trying to get pregnant to reduce the risks of infertility. Learn more about the warnings signs of infertility and discover how you can develop healthy habits to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Reviewed by

Anna Klepchukova, MD

1. Ovulation delay

Scientists aren’t sure exactly how THC affects the sexual function of women attempting to get pregnant. THC affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which controls how your sex hormones interact. Continuous exposure to THC can inhibit the secretion of luteinizing hormone and prolactin from the pituitary gland in males and females. These hormones influence your chances of getting pregnant.

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In women, high THC doses interfere with the menstrual cycle and may delay or prevent ovulation. Cannabinoids inhibit the activity of the HPG axis, meaning that marijuana use decreases the production of several hormones and can inhibit sexual behavior — if your sex drive is down, this can also hinder your efforts to conceive.

Regular smokers may have an elevated risk of not ovulating at all. A 2016 report also suggests marijuana disrupts the menstrual cycle and can lead to anovulatory cycles (cycles without ovulation).

In general, it’s thought that marijuana can affect the production of luteinizing hormone in women. LH regulates testosterone production in men and stimulates female ovulation. When men smoke frequently, they tend to have lower levels of testosterone, and women who smoke frequently have less LH.

In addition to marijuana use, it’s important to examine other causes of late ovulation so you can put yourself in the best position for a successful pregnancy.

2. Lower sperm count

According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana use can impair a man’s sperm count and ability to reproduce. Other research has suggested that marijuana is bad for men’s fertility.

However, a Harvard study surprisingly refutes those findings and states that there’s no evidence of harmful effects on fertility. In the study, researchers collected blood samples and semen from hundreds of volunteers at the Massachusetts General Hospital fertility clinic. In the study, which ran from 2000 to 2017, men were asked about their marijuana use. The results showed no correlation between marijuana use and male fertility.

Since there isn’t a conclusive determination on the subject, if you have a male partner who smokes, try to discourage him from doing so while you are trying to conceive — especially if his sperm count is low.

3. Deterioration of existing fertility problems

There’s no conclusive evidence that marijuana use causes infertility, but research has found that it can lower sperm count, increase anovulatory cycles, and disrupt the balance of hormones in the body that encourage pregnancy.

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How Marijuana Can Affect Fertility

Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.

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Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Although the link between marijuana and fertility is not straightforward—plenty of marijuana smokers get pregnant and get their partners pregnant—some research has demonstrated that marijuana use can negatively impact you, your partner, or the fertility of both of you.

Female Fertility

Research suggests that marijuana can negatively affect female fertility in the following ways:

  • Decreases libido. Even before intercourse takes place, marijuana use may decreases libido. And if you aren’t feeling in the mood, it’s that much more difficult to get started.
  • Increases the risk of miscarriage. Marijuana use also increases the risk of miscarriage. Marijuana is known to cross the placenta and may pose a risk to the fetus, although the effects of marijuana exposure in the womb are not as well documented as the effects of alcohol and some other drugs.  

Furthermore, the effects of marijuana on fertility seem to accumulate over time. This means that although teenage girls who smoke marijuana are more likely to get pregnant, by the time a chronic marijuana smoking woman is in her mid-twenties, she may be more likely to experience a delay in getting pregnant.

Male Fertility

Despite the relaxation effects that many people associate with marijuana use, research has shown marijuana has negative effects on the male sexual response.

  • Increases impotence. Cannabis use has been associated with sexual dysfunction, which can also have negative effects on the male ego. If your partner has been impotent, he may be feeling more pressure to have sex to get you pregnant, but be frustrated with his inability to do so. This can lead to misunderstandings between you that make it more difficult to have sex.
  • May lead to premature ejaculation. Marijuana use has been associated with premature ejaculation.
  • May decrease sperm count. A regular smoker of marijuana has a risk of having a lower sperm count.
  • Affects sperm structure and function. Additionally, the sperm produced by marijuana smoking has been associated with abnormal morphology (shape) and motility (its ability to “swim” and fertilize the egg).  

Quit to Prepare for Parenthood

Obviously, if you are both smoking marijuana, you risk increasing the chances of infertility as a couple.

Quitting marijuana can be harder than many long-term marijuana users expect, so you and your partner would be wise to quit as soon as possible, while you still have time to get help before getting pregnant. If either or both parents still use marijuana when the baby arrives, you are increasing the risk that your child may use drugs in the future, and parental drug use is implicated in many difficulties for children and families.

Your family doctor can help you with a referral to a counselor or clinic that can help you both quit. ​Couples counseling, which is offered by many addiction clinics, would be particularly helpful at this time. If you are already engaged in infertility treatment, coming clean about your marijuana could save you a lot of time, money, and heartache, if marijuana is one of the culprits for your difficulties with conception.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Bari M, Battista N, Pirazzi V, Maccarrone M. The manifold actions of endocannabinoids on female and male reproductive events. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011;16:498-516. doi:10.2741/3701

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By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.

Marijuana As Birth Control?

According to a recent study, reported on in Forbes magazine, the chemicals in marijuana may prevent pregnancy by making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.

Dey, the Dorothy Overall Wells professor of pediatrics, cell and developmental biology and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and his colleagues conducted their experiments in mice. It’s known that marijuana, the most widely used illegal drug among women of childbearing age, binds to two receptors, called cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and 2). These receptors are found in the brain and also in sperm, eggs and newly formed embryos.

Typically, the two receptors are activated by a signaling molecule called anandamide, which is synthesized by an enzyme known as NAPE-PLD and then is degraded by another enzyme called FAAH. This balance, or “tone,” of the anandamide is crucial for the embryo to develop normally.

Dey and his team suppressed FAAH activity in the mice. This increased the level of anandamide, which mimics what happens when a woman smokes marijuana and increases the level of THC, which binds to the same receptor as anandamide. The results showed that when FAAH activity is suppressed in the embryos and oviduct, anandamide levels rise, preventing the embryos from completing their passage to the uterus and compromising the pregnancy.

“This is a major finding,” said Dey, “that if you block FAAH and disturb anandamide levels, there is a compromised pregnancy outcome.”

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In an accompanying commentary in the journal, Herbert Schuel, professor emeritus of anatomy and cell biology at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, said the Dey study findings “show that exogenous THC can swamp endogenous anandamide signaling systems,” affecting many processes in the body.

And Schuel offered another warning: Several drugs in development to suppress appetite work by modifying anandamide signaling. Since many women of reproductive age take weight-loss drugs, he suggested that these drugs must be carefully evaluated to determine the long-term effects on women.

The point that the article didn’t touch on, and that interests me, is that these scientists have touched on a non-hormonal birth control. I wonder if this will be picked up on by a pharmaceutical company.

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this has already been studied a bit in research labs, and the ‘cure’ for hormonal birth control pills is still a long way away (if even possible through cannabinoid mediated mechanisms). From what I heard in a recent discussion, it’s not even close to 100% effective (and there’s no assurance that a cannabinoid based brith control would ever be fully efffective) and no one wants birth control that works 75% of the time. Maybe a few more years will find a way to make this a safer form of birth control. Also i’ve heard that smoking the ganja lowers sperm count, lowering the chance of pregnancy somewhat as well (though i’ve heard this just enough times to make me think it might be an urban legend, I’ll have to check later today).

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No no, they got it all wrong. It works as birth control for the following reason:
Him: Let’s do it! Nyahhhh! (stoner laugh)
Her: Alright. That’s cool.
pause
Him: What were we gonna do?
Her: I don’t know. Smoke some more hash?
Him: Nyahhhh. you said HASH. H-AAAAASH.
Her: My hands feel like birds. Hands are soooo cooollll.
both pass out

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Hmm. I wonder if the herb once used, and wiped out by, the Greeks (or was it Romans..) did that. Would love to see the reaction of the anti-choice movement to someone making a food supliment, unregulatable by the FDA, that just happened to work as a contraceptive as well. Assuming of course that other side effects didn’t arise.

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“Her: I don’t know. Smoke some more hash?”

who on the cosmic muffin’s green earth still uses the word HASH?

Aside from you Brandon, of course.

I don’t think that weed would kill sex drive at all.

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Haaaaash. Nyaaahhhahah.
Wait, why was I responding?

(j/k. I’ve heard say it plenty. Maybe it is a region specific preference, like soda, coke, pop, etc. hash is more surfer-ie. Weed is kinda high school or ghetto. Mary Jane is reserved for those over 40. Pot is a harsh word – too abrupt. Marijuana is what you call it in health class. A joint is a single object, as is a bowl, so wouldn’t work in the sentence. And my point wasn’t that it killed sex drive, just that they forgot they wanted to have sex. Grrr.. explained jokes never work. Bah humbug to you, sir!)

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Well I got it just fine. I think. my hands are birds. yesssss parrots. SQUAWK.

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Isn’t there some urban myth about weed decreasing sperm count? Killing two birds (or hands) with one stone (pun not intended, but definitely appreciated).

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Nyahahaaaa. you said stone.
.
.
Wait, what?

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There will be no discussion of killing birds on this here site. 🙂

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RPM, there was a 1978 paper, from Europe I think, that first kicked off this idea that smoking weed decreased sperm count (sperm density is a more accurate term). Lots of confounding variables that confuse the issue, and the subjects were called, “heavy users.” A group at SUNY Buffalo did, indeed, show in 1998 that physiologically-relevant THC interferes with fertilization via inhibiting acrosomal fusion with the egg – seems that endogenous anandamide is a positive modulator of sperm-egg fusion and THC can antagonize that positive effect.

However, even cigarette smoking can also lower sperm count. Moreover, THC is a potential steroid-mimetic in that it influences LH, testosterone, and prolactin levels; hence, heavy partakers of the blessed herb who are male can sometimes develop gynecomastia – haven’t yet heard of a similar effect in women, but must have been studied by pharma or academics because of potential blockbuster (pun intended) lifestyle drug formulation. Don’t know if a THC breast cream would be as dangerous as estrogen breast creams, the latter of which should never, ever, never, be used by young women due to a logical increased risk of breast cancer.

BTW, anandamide is intentionally taken from the Sanskrit word, ananada, meaning ‘bliss.’

But, enough, for now. I should be doing a proof on a certain young professor’s grant application! BTW, Shelleba, you make some really great observations and scientific assocaitions outside your primary field that would make you a valuable contributor in pharma. or if you want to start a dietary supplement company!

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