How Does Cannabis Affect Male Fertility?
If a couple is trying to conceive, there are a number of factors affecting male and female fertility that should be taken into consideration. This is because everything we expose our body to, including the food we eat and the physical environment we’re in can have an impact on fertility.
When it comes to male fertility, everything relies on healthy sperm production. Circumstances such as low sperm count, blockages, or abnormal sperm function can affect normal sperm delivery, impeding and preventing conception from taking place. Other factors include health problems, injuries, illnesses, and lifestyle choices.
There are three main criteria that define healthy sperm quality. The first is sperm count, which refers to the number of sperm cells in any sample of semen. It can range from 20 to 200 million sperm cells in every milliliter of semen; but anything lower than 15 million sperm cells is already medically considered a low sperm count. Also known as oligospermia, this condition is common and there are ways to address a low sperm count.
Sperm morphology is another criterion; it’s the study of normal vs. abnormal sperm cells. For example, some sperm cells may be deformed or have an abnormal shape, such as having two heads instead of one.
Last but not least, sperm motility is another important criterion. It refers to the ability of sperms to swim and move around efficiently.
How Cannabis Affects Sperm Quality
Considering the increasing number of cannabis users each day, both men and women, it’s necessary to see how this may impact fertility for both sexes. There hasn’t been enough studies on the topic, but for couples trying to conceive, we should be taking a deeper look.
A brand-new study has just revealed that men who have used or do use cannabis have been associated to improved fertility. For the research, investigators gathered 1,143 semen samples from 662 males between the years 2000-2017. The average age of the men was 36, most of whom are white and have completed college education. All the participants were part of couples who sought assistance with conception from a clinic specializing in fertility. They were made to complete questionnaires that compiled information on this history of cannabis consumption. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said that they smoked cannabis at one point or another; in that group, 44% admit to having taken cannabis in the past while 11% said that they are current cannabis consumers.
Lab tests reveal that semen samples of men who consumed cannabis had 62.7 million sperm/mL as the average sperm count, while those who never smoked had lower average sperm counts at 45.4 million/mL. Just 5% of the cannabis consumers had low sperm counts, while 12% of men who never smoked pot had lower sperm counts than average.
They found that participants with a history of cannabis use surprisingly had higher sperm counts compared to non-users. However, the study’s authors explained that this doesn’t necessarily mean that consuming cannabis would increase your chances of conceiving; keep in mind that there are other factors at play as mentioned above.
“These unexpected findings highlight how little we know about the reproductive health effects of marijuana, and in fact of the health effects of marijuana in general,” says lead researchers Dr. Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Our results need to be interpreted with caution and they highlight the need to further study the health effects of marijuana use,” he says.
The researchers said that there was a possibility that low exposure to cannabis could actually be beneficial to sperm production. They were surprised to see the findings, and came up with some hypothesis to explain the results.
“An equally plausible interpretation is that our findings could reflect that the men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in risk-seeking behaviors, including smoking marijuana,” explains Dr. Feiby Nassan, one of the members of the Harvard research team.
Meanwhile, British expert Allan Pacey, a Professor of Andrology from the University of Sheffield, said: “As the authors point out, men with higher sperm concentrations are likely to have more testosterone in their bodies and thus may be more likely to smoke marijuana because simply they are willing to take more risks.”
Though Mr. Pacey does not support the use of consuming cannabis for couples trying to conceive, the findings are promising for couples who are trying to conceive.