First, let me begin by saying I’m no prude. I believe that individuals, hopefully armed with enough (true) information to make an intelligent decision. That also involves choices abut their health. But sometimes there really isn’t much of a choice, and here’s one: smoking marijuana (or anything) and pregnancy don’t mix.
With the legalization of marijuana in California around the corner, I find myself telling patients more than ever to not use marijuana during pregnancy or even while trying to get pregnant. I would never take that chance with my own kids and I expect my patients wouldn’t either. And if you are not a patient of mine and are reading this, I truly hope that you won’t risk it either.
Can’t we use “just a little pot” while we’re trying to get pregnant?
I was told about an interesting study that indicated that marijuana may actually increase sexual passion instead of putting you to sleep faster than watching C-SPAN.
In fact, this study done at Stanford University showed that people who said they used cannabis regularly claimed to have sex a little more often than people who never used it. Seems perfect for those who are trying hard to get pregnant.
Recently a few patients that smoking pot made them want to have sex more often. But when they asked if they could smoke pot while trying to conceive because it helped them want to have sex, I balked,.
I hope what follows explains why.
Reasons to avoid marijuana while trying to conceive and during pregnancy include:
- Some studies suggest that using marijuana regularly during pregnancy puts your baby at higher risk for premature birth and low birth weight.
- Smoking weed (or tobacco) increases carbon monoxide levels in the bloodstream, the baby gets less oxygen, which may affect his growth.
- Other studies show that children exposed to marijuana in their mothers’ wombs have different brain activity and more disturbed sleeping patterns as toddlers. They may also eventually suffer from depression or have behavior problems, such as impulsiveness and attention deficits.
- Some other studies point to a link between prenatal marijuana exposure and lower school test scores.
- It can be difficult to tell if the pot you’re getting is pure. It may be contaminated with other drugs or herbicides that could put your baby-to-be at even greater risk. Even legal dispensaries are not closely regulated, although some claim that their products have been approved or certified, I would not trust that when it comes to my baby.
And the list goes on and on.
My suggestion is If you use pot, wait at least a month after your last use before trying to conceive since it takes that long to get all traces of the drug out of your system. And then avoid it along with alcohol during your entire pregnancy.
We pulled together some information from several sources to share with you about marijuana and its effects on the amazing process of making a baby. I hope you find it interesting and/or of value. Please let me know!
Marijuana and Female Fertility
Female fertility is a ridiculously complex phenomenon. Not only does it comprise of the ability to become pregnant, but it includes the scientific miracle of growing another human being inside of you. The biochemical processes that enable life to grow and thrive inside the womb are incredible, and there are many different points where cannabis may influence what happens.
Marijuana’s impact on fertility is a topic of hot debate these days. The good news is that cannabis does not seem to cause any lasting damage in regard to your ability to conceive. But, the bad news? If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, marijuana might not make conception any easier.
Long-term consequences of marijuana on ovulation have yet to be established. Ovulation, or when an egg is released, is triggered because of a timely surge of a particular sex hormone. That hormone is luteinizing hormone (LH). A 2002 review of clinical literature published in the Journal of Pharmacology found that marijuana decreases the level of LH secreted by the pituitary gland. This shouldn’t be surprising since LH is also decreased in men.
One of the studies cited in the literature review tested THC’s impact on ovulation in monkeys. LH levels decreased by a whopping 50 to 80%. This caused ovulation to stop, meaning that the ovary failed to produce an egg.
Something funny happened after about 3 or 4 months, though. Even though the monkeys were still being treated with THC, ovulation and menstruation returned to normal. As tolerance for THC increased, ovulation and menstruation spontaneously began again. A second study examining oral THC administration in rhesus monkeys had similar findings, and those monkeys had no trouble conceiving while under the influence.
Pot and Embryo Implantation
You may have heard jokes about marijuana causing “slow swimmers” in men, but there may also be some truth to the claim when it comes to newly fertilized ovum in women. A 2006 study published in the Journal for Clinical Investigation found that frequent marijuana use was correlated to slow egg travel from the ovary to the uterus in mice.
Time is of the essence to a fertilized ovum. Once the sperm meets the egg, it needs to implant within a certain period of time before it loses viability. Because marijuana may delay travel, a newly formed embryo may not be able to implant in time to create a pregnancy.. An embryo’s failure to implant in the uterus is an “early pregnancy failure” or early miscarriage.
Failure of an embryo to make its proper place in the uterus also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when an embryo implants in the Fallopian tube rather than the uterus. These pregnancies are extremely painful and risk the life of the mother.
Sperm Production and Marijuana
There may be some bad news for marijuana-loving men under 30. According to a study published in Human Reproduction in 2014, smoking marijuana regularly changes the size and shape of your sperm. Researchers from the University of Sheffield found that the chances of producing abnormally shaped sperm increases in young men that use marijuana. The abundance of abnormal sperm cells can make it challenging to reproduce.
The study is one of the largest to date exploring lifestyle impacts on fertility. 2,249 men from 14 fertility clinics around the United Kingdom were sent home with a detailed lifestyle questionnaire. Of the participants, 318 men had samples containing less than 4% normal, healthy sperm.
When researchers compared questionnaire results with samples containing mostly abnormal sperm, they found a couple of interesting things. First, samples from men who ejaculated during the summer were twice as likely to have low counts of normal sperm. If the man in question was under 30, then it was likely that he had used cannabis within three months prior to getting his little soldiers tested.
Lead author Dr. Allan Pacey said “We found that cannabis doubled the risk of men under 30 having poor sperm – statistically it jumped out of the analysis. I think it’s a real effect, and it’s not been shown before in such a robust way.”
The good news is that new sperm is regenerated in 74-day cycles. If you’re looking to start a family and you haven’t had success, laying off the herb until your body generates a new round of troops might get things back to normal. Having your sperm tested at a fertility clinic can also tell you just how healthy it actually is. Even if you smoke marijuana, you may still have enough healthy sperm to conceive.
THC inside the Womb
THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you “high” likes to hang out in Fallopian tubes, and this could be damning for sperm cells. While this seems odd, the fact isn’t all that surprising. Endocannabinoid anandamide may be critical for readying sperm for their chance encounter with an egg. Freshly ejaculated sperm cannot be successful without contact with female hormones and sex cells. Anandamide looks like it may be one of them.
A study from 2002 found that there are CB1 receptors on sperm cells. The research found that in low concentrations, anandamide helped the viability of sperm. In high concentrations, anandamide actually prevented sperm from fertilizing an egg. When you smoke marijuana, high concentrations of THC bind to these CB1 receptors, acting similarly to high concentrations of anandamide. What’s the takeaway? Marijuana and pregnancy don;t mix.
So, does marijuana lead to infertility?
Kind of. But not irreparably. Using marijuana can hinder the process by decreasing viable sperm in men, and it may make getting pregnant a little harder in women. In men, a low sperm count may continue for as long as you keep smoking weed. In women, however, tolerance to the plant over time seems to mitigate some of the initial effects.
The herb might slow things down. But, putting away the vape while you try to conceive seems to get everything back in working order. We can’t say for sure, though, until more advanced clinical research is done in humans.
This list of research is also far from complete. The political debate surrounding marijuana makes the plant difficult to study in general. The social stigma faced by marijuana-loving moms makes examining cannabis use among childbearing women even harder. Much of the human research we’ve seen relies on relatively small sample sizes and self-reporting. Both of these factors hinder the accuracy of what little scientific research we have available. So be safe instead of potentially sorry when considering marijuana use and pregnancy..
Supported by her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi treats women through all phases of life and cherishes the special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.