You may have heard about cannabis improving sex drive. In fact, according to a new study, people who smoke weed have around 20 per cent more sex compared to those who do not use cannabis. This is because the drug may stimulate sexual arousal.
But what about fertility? Are couples who have difficulty conceiving more likely to get pregnant and have children if they take cannabis?
Let’s just say that the relationship between cannabis and fertility is quite complicated.
Cannabis, testosterone, and sperm count
The male hormone testosterone plays a role in the development of sperm. Having low testosterone levels could mean lower sperm count, and low sperm count means more difficulty conceiving.
According to a study done on animal models, cannabis affects male libido in two distinct phases. The drug first increases testosterone as well as other sex hormones, thus causing a spike in sex drive. In the second phase, it causes sudden drops in testosterone levels and in other sex hormones.
Researchers had observed that high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – which is the main psychoactive chemical component found in cannabis – caused testosterone to spike six times its normal levels for the first 20 minutes or so after smoking weed. But for small doses, the spike in testosterone lasted for about one hour.
A different study found that the use of cannabis was associated with higher levels of testosterone, but lower sperm counts. The study, which examined more than 1,200 Danish men aged 18 to 28, found that 45% used cannabis and that while there was an increase in the testosterone levels among cannabis users, just as in cigarette smokers, the men’s viable sperm count decreased an average of 29% compared to those who do not smoke cannabis.
Testosterone is key in sperm production, and it is assumed that it is the sudden fluctuations or spikes and dips in testosterone levels of cannabis users that are to blame for this.
You can read more about the studies here.
Cannabis and abnormal sperm
What’s more, a study published in Human Reproduction in 2014 found that for men under 30 years old, smoking weed on a regular basis changes the shape and size of the sperm. Researchers found that with cannabis use, the chances of young men producing abnormally shaped sperm increases.
The more abnormal sperm cells you have, the more challenging it will be for you to reproduce.
The great thing about this particular finding, though, is that new sperm is regenerated within a 74-day cycle. This means that if you want to start a family, you may want to skip the weed until your reproductive system generates a new batch of troops and get back to its normal state.
Cannabis and fecundability
There are also those who are not convinced that cannabis can negatively affect male fertility, referring to a new study that found no link between cannabis and fecundability.
Fecundability is the probability of conceiving in a single menstrual cycle.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health this January, found that men who smoked weed more than once a week showed a 24% rise in fecundability over men who do not smoke at all. Meanwhile, those who only smoked occasionally showed a slight decrease.
The researchers clarified that additional questions relating to cannabis use and fertility still remain as the study mainly relied on self-reported data, which could be proven problematic. In addition, they noted that it was not clear whether the couples reporting cannabis used smoked it regularly or as a one-time thing.
The researchers, however, believe that their study opened the door for more in-depth investigations on the relationship between cannabis and fertility in the future.