New Study Says Cannabis Use Does Not Affect Fertility
A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH) concludes that cannabis use among men and women doesn’t affect fertility. The study, which was led by School of Public Health researchers, is the first of its kind to analyze the links between the average-per-cycle probability of conception (fecundability) and cannabis use.
It’s estimated that around 15% of couples are faced with infertility problems, which has cost the American healthcare system over $5 billion annually. For this reason, it’s become a priority for public health to determine what affects a person’s fertility, and recreational drug has long been thought to be one of them. Cannabis is put on the hot seat once again, since not much is known yet about its effects on fertility but remains to be the most widely consumed recreational drug. There have only been a few studies analyzing cannabis use and infertility in the past, although the results have been inconsistent.
“Given the increasing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana across the nation, we thought it was an opportune time to investigate the association between marijuana use and fertility,” says epidemiology professor Lauren Wise, lead author of the study.
The study looked at male and female participants from 2013 to 2017; wherein 12% of females and 14% of males used cannabis 2 months prior to completing the assessment. The researchers then followed up after 12 cycles, and found that the conception probabilities of the cannabis users were similar to those who didn’t. However, the researchers said that categorizing participants based on self-reported data on how much cannabis they consumed, is still challenging. “Future studies with day-specific data on marijuana use might better be able to distinguish acute from chronic effects of marijuana use, and evaluate whether effects depend on other factors,” they write.
Previous Studies Are Contradictory
Cannabis use and fertility is still one of the hazier aspects when it comes to health, but it’s not news that cannabis use has long been associated with infertility.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that cannabis use is linked to higher testosterone levels, but a reduced total sperm count. The study looked at 1,215 Danish men aged 18-28. They found that 45% of these men were cannabis users, but their sperm count reduced around 29% on average compared to those who didn’t consume cannabis. This study is one of the most well-known in the medical community when it comes to cannabis and male fertility.
However, there are a few other older studies that suggest the opposite. A 2016 study found that the cannabinoid receptors can help regulate sperm production, which means that cannabis may actually be promising in the treatment of male infertility. For the study, the researchers analyzed three groups of mice, the 3rd of which acted as the control group and was administered with a saline solution. The 1st and 2nd groups were given an activator for the CB2 receptors, and an inhibitor of the CB2 receptors, respectively. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the animal models given the CB2 activators showed increased spermatogenesis (production of sperm cells), while the group given CB2 inhibitors had a much slower rate of spermatogenesis. According to Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., stimulating the endogenous cannabinoids that affect sperm production may be beneficial in treating male infertility.
So what impact does cannabis really have on fertility for men and women? It may take some time for us to figure this out.
However, we do know that one of the functions the endocannabinoid system regulates is the reproductive system in both men and women. Cannabinoid receptors are found in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, the placenta, and even in seminal fluid. But in order to conceive, everything needs to be pretty much perfect within the reproduction system. More specifically, the endocannabinoid levels and hormones need to be in the right levels and at the right time. Even the slightest imbalance can lead to undesirable results.
And while many studies suggest that cannabis can affect fertility and cause congenital defects, it’s necessary to also look at other factors such as the number of children born to cannabis users versus non users, as well as the level of education, overall desire to reproduce, and socioeconomic status.