Evidence suggests that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant activates a complex network of receptors throughout the body that assist in regulating and communicating with the brain, the endocrine tissues, and the immune system.
According to Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine physician at NYC Health + Hospitals, this system plays a significant role in human reproduction. Gaither states that THC interferes with the communication process that controls our hormones and reproduction, and therefore has the potential to throw these reproductive functions off balance.
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A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) recently found that the use of marijuana may prevent or delay ovulation in women. In a study of 201 women, doctors found that 29 participants who smoked the drug in the past three months had delayed ovulation of 1.7 to 3.5 days on average.
Dr. Felice Gersh, an OB-GYN and founder of the Integrative Medical Group in Irvine, California, told Healthline in a recent interview that "high amounts of THC can decrease the production of estrogen, and without the high estrogen spike, ovulation will not occur."
A 2015 study, involving 1,215 men, found that those who had smoked marijuana more than once a week over three months saw a decrease in sperm concentation by 28 percent. Those who used marijuana more than once a week with other recreational drugs, had a reduced sperm concentration of 52%.
A more recent study, however, shows an increase in sperm count and testicular function with the use of marijuana. The study found that men who had previously smoked marijuana had higher sperm concentration and count, with lower serum FSH concentrations, than the men who had never smoked marijuana before.
For couples who are already experiencing fertility issues, marijuana could potentially exasperate the problem.
Early research investigating the link between marijuana usage and human fertility is conflicting and still evolving. Researchers emphasize that these studies are small studies that are not randomized and are retrospective. Meaning they rely on people telling the truth about their drug use, which can prove to be difficult when the use of this drug is still illegal in some areas.