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How Does Marijuana and CBD Impact Fertility?

Written by: Meghan Sylvester, RDN, LDN, The Wellness Center at SGF

Medical review: Eric A. Widra, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, SGF

Marijuana is now fully legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and it’s been approved for medicinal use in another 23 states.

Five other states do not allow medicinal use of marijuana, but they do allow medicinal use of CBD oils.

More and more people are turning to alternative remedies like marijuana and CBD oils to alleviate pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation, but how could this be affecting your fertility?

It’s certainly a controversial and understudied topic. Many studies rely on self-reported use and data suggests dose-dependent effects on human health and fertility. For example, one study found “the effects of Cannabis and THC on the human ovary consist in suppression of ovulation and other studies have indicated increased anovulatory cycles and short luteal phases in chronic women smokers.” (1)  Data also suggests women who smoke marijuana and undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment produce poor quality oocytes and have lower pregnancy rates compared to non-users. (1)

In regard to marijuana use during pregnancy, one study concluded that “maternal marijuana use does not increase the risk of adverse obstetrical outcomes or fetal anomalies but does increase the risk for small for gestational age and neonatal intensive care unit admission.” (2)

Studies on how marijuana use may affect male fertility are conflicting, but several studies have found that routine usage of cannabis, more than once per week, was associated with a nearly 30 percent reduction in median sperm concentration and total sperm count as well as increased incidence of erectile dysfunction. (3) Interestingly, while some research suggests higher risk for testicular cancers among marijuana users, other data supports anti-neoplastic effects of cannabinoids on prostate cancer. (3)

You don’t have to look far to find positive testimonials supporting the benefits of CBD for a plethora of ailments. But there is actually only one FDA-approved prescription CBD oil called Epixiolex, which effectively treats two types of epilepsy. Many legitimate studies are currently underway to assess CBD as a feasible treatment option for Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety although there remains to be a lack of conclusive evidence supporting its use.

While some CBD dispensaries tout the safety and efficacy of its use to promote fertility in men and woman and alleviate the pains of pregnancy, there is inadequate data supporting CBD use during pregnancy or while undergoing fertility treatment.

CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties as marijuana and most users report good tolerance but there is still a risk of side effects such as dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. (4)

A major concern over the use of CBD oil is that there are no regulations or oversight laws for its production. For this reason, the purity and dosage of CBD in products can differ greatly from what is marketed on the label. A recent study of 84 CBD products bought online showed that nearly 43 percent were under-labeled (more CBD existed in the product than what the label indicated), while 26 percent were over-labeled (less CBD existed in the product than what the label indicated). In addition, THC was found in 18 products. (5)

CBD can also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners.

When it comes to fertility, these are two major reasons to consult with your physician and think twice before using CBD products while trying to conceive.

The Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility offers non-medicinal alternative and integrative health services—acupuncture, massage and nutrition—that may also help alleviate pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation while safely promoting and supporting fertility and pregnancy too.

  • Acupuncture has been used for centuries and its key principles are based around the concept of balance so that our bodies can function optimally. Acupuncture aims to correct imbalances and eliminate symptoms that the imbalance may have caused. Acupuncture has been used to help with all stages of the fertility journey—from conception, to delivery, to postpartum healing.
  • Massage is another form of physical medicine that can support patients through fertility. Our massage therapists use research-informed and results-oriented techniques that have benefitted thousands of fertility clients for over 15 years. Our Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM) Protocol is a five-part series using massage and related techniques to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs, and to promote the client’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The five parts of the protocol focus on cleansing and detoxification, enhancing reproductive circulation, oxygenating the pelvic organs, encouraging pelvic alignment, and combating stress.
  • Good nutrition is the foundation of overall health. We are what we eat and food can either be quite healing or detrimentally toxic to our bodies. Learning to eat a healthy balanced diet can reduce systemic inflammation, improve gastrointestinal health, and correct nutrient deficiencies that are often linked to chronic disease and many complicating symptoms. Whether seeking nutritional guidance for weight loss, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), general fertility guidelines, or prenatal nutrition, our registered nutritionist works with each patient to create an individualized plan that supports health and wellness goals. We work with most major insurance companies.

The expert practitioners at the Wellness Center at SGF currently see patients in the Rockville, MD; Fair Oaks, VA; Fairfax, VA; and K Street, D.C. offices. For more information please visit our website www.shadygrovefertility.com/your-care-team/wellness-center or call 888-604-7525 to schedule an appointment.

1. Cannabinoids and Reproduction: A Lasting and Intriguing History. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Oct; 3(10): 3275–3323.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034092/

2. Association between marijuana use and adverse obstetrical and neonatal outcomes. J Perinatol. 2015 Dec;35(12):991-5. doi: 10.1038/jp.2015.120. Epub 2015 Sep 24.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26401751

3. The relationship between cannabis and male infertility, sexual health, and neoplasm: a systematic review. 2019 Mar;7(2):139-147. doi: 10.1111/andr.12585. Epub 2019 Feb 15.

4. Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476

5. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online.  JAMA. 2017 Nov 7; 318(17): 1708–1709.

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