Although cannabis use is increasing in general population, their prevalence among young adults is remarkably high. In recent years, their medical use gained a renewed interest. However, it can underline the reputation of cannabis being a harmless drug. Between cannabinoids, uniquely found on the can … CBD has an array of possible health benefits, but does it affect fertility? We explore everything you need to know if you’re trying to conceive. Does CBD help with fertility? Read more to see the latest information regarding CBD and the ability to create a family and reproductive functions.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Reproduction and Fertility: Where We Stand
Although cannabis use is increasing in general population, their prevalence among young adults is remarkably high. In recent years, their medical use gained a renewed interest. However, it can underline the reputation of cannabis being a harmless drug. Between cannabinoids, uniquely found on the cannabis plant, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the well-studied compound. It is responsible for the psychoactive effects via central cannabinoid receptors. Nevertheless, cannabinoids interact with other chemical signalling systems such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. THC indirectly decreases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretion by the hypothalamus. The consequences are diverse, and several key hormones are affected. THC disturbs important reproductive events like folliculogenesis, ovulation and sperm maturation and function. Although generally accepted that cannabinoid consumption impacts male and female fertility, prevailing evidence remains largely on pre-clinical studies. Here, we introduce cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, and we review the most prominent clinical evidence about cannabis consumption in reproductive potential and teratogenicity.
Keywords: Cannabinoids; Cannabis; Female fertility; Male fertility; Pregnancy.
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CBD Oil and Fertility: Effectiveness, Safety, and Side Effects
Although still in relatively early stages, research and clinical trials have suggested cannabidiol (CBD) may be effective in the treatment of a number of health conditions.
These include, but are not limited to, inflammatory disorders, anxiety, chronic pain, skin conditions, depression, and epilepsy.
When it comes to fertility, there’s been even less research with regard to CBD. Currently, there isn’t enough information to support the idea that CBD can either limit or boost fertility.
In this article, we explore the available scientific evidence to determine the potential relationship between CBD and fertility.
Quick Answer: Does CBD Affect Fertility?
In short, there’s no clear positive or negative impact of CBD on human fertility.
The general consensus is that CBD helps to improve fertility through indirect means. By supporting overall health and wellbeing, CBD may help us become more fertile.
Due to a lack of clear evidence to prove CBD is safe for a developing fetus, it’s recommended you avoid CBD while in the early stages of pregnancy unless otherwise directed by your primary healthcare provider.
Endocannabinoid receptors have been found on female reproductive organs, suggesting that CBD could possibly help to boost fertility. Plus, some research has shown that CBD may be able to increase the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg.
Does Cannabis Affect Fertility?
There’s only been a handful of studies exploring the effects of marijuana on male and female fertility.
This includes research on individual cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids contained in the plant.
THC — the cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high’ associated with cannabis consumption — has been shown to decrease ovulation, thereby lowering pregnancy rates compared with study participants that did not consume cannabis .
Another study showed that smoking cannabis lowered sperm count and concentration by 28%, suggesting that it can considerably inhibit male fertility .
Consequently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend people don’t use cannabis while trying to conceive — stating it may negatively impact fetal development as early as the first trimester of pregnancy.
What Evidence Is There to Suggest CBD Boosts Fertility?
CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) — the primary purpose of which is to maintain homeostasis (balance) through various physical and cognitive processes.
Cannabinoid (CB) receptors are located pretty much everywhere — the skin, organs, bones, tissues, and glands.
CBD has been shown to act as a modulator of the CB receptors — making it more difficult for them to be over-or under-stimulated and thereby helping the body to achieve and maintain homeostasis more efficiently .
CB receptors have also been found in the female reproductive system, as well as in sperm. For this reason, scientists and researchers believe that CBD may be able to positively influence their function in the same way that it boosts other functions in the body.
It’s been suggested that endocannabinoids can boost follicle maturation and ovarian function, as well as increase sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg. It seems logical that CBD, which can boost endocannabinoid production, could be a beneficial supplement to consume while trying to conceive.
What Evidence Is There to Suggest CBD Limits Fertility?
Although we know that marijuana consumption can have a negative effect on male fertility, we have no solid evidence that shows CBD on its own does the same.
One study conducted on mouse embryos showed that the compound anandamide inhibited the development of embryos — and, as anandamide increases with CBD use, this suggests the cannabinoid may have a negative effect in the initial stages of pregnancy, thereby affecting fertility as a whole.
Another study in 2003 by Buffalo University in the US showed that cannabinoids can affect factors relating to fertility in men, such as sperm mobility. Unfortunately, the effects of CBD specifically were not investigated .
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that “male reproductive toxicity, or damage to fertility in males or male offspring of women who have been exposed, has been reported in studies of animals exposed to CBD.” This is based on a Swiss study on mice that reported CBD to have a significant effect on the male reproductive system . The study also found there was a 76% decrease in total circulating testosterone (although it remained within normal levels) and abnormalities in sperm.
Consequently, many medical professionals do not recommend CBD to couples who are finding it difficult to conceive — especially those who are already taking other supplements with which CBD may negatively interact. It’s therefore always important to consult a medical professional before taking CBD for fertility.
Can CBD Help Me Conceive?
A note worth remembering is that CBD does have an array of potential health benefits that are backed up by science, albeit fairly limited. If you have other health conditions — or if conception issues have caused you to develop stress, anxiety, or any other cognitive issues that may be detrimental to fertility issues in their own right — you may find that CBD could help alleviate them. This may end up indirectly helping you to conceive.
The issues that CBD can potentially help to alleviate include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic pain
- Inflammation-related disorders
Final Thoughts: CBD & Fertility
There’s a number of theories around CBD’s relationship with and effect on fertility. Much more research is needed in this area for us to be able to make any definitive claims about whether it’s beneficial or harmful for fertility.
Currently, there’s no concrete evidence that CBD has any positive or negative effect on fertility in either women or men.
While there’s no doubt that regular cannabis consumption is not a good idea for people trying to conceive, it’s possible that CBD offers indirect benefits by supporting other areas of health.
It’s best to consult a medical professional before taking any new supplement — especially when you’re trying to conceive. They’ll be able to advise you on the best way forward based on your individual circumstances.
- Jordan, T., Ngo, B., & Jones, C. A. (2020). The use of cannabis and perceptions of its effect on fertility among infertility patients. Human reproduction open, 2020(1), hoz041.
- Gundersen, T. D., Jørgensen, N., Andersson, A. M., Bang, A. K., Nordkap, L., Skakkebæk, N. E., … & Jensen, T. K. (2015). Association between use of marijuana and male reproductive hormones and semen quality: a study among 1,215 healthy young men. American journal of epidemiology, 182(6), 473-481.
- McPartland, J. M., Duncan, M., Di Marzo, V., & Pertwee, R. G. (2015). Are cannabidiol and Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabivarin negative modulators of the endocannabinoid system? A systematic review. British journal of pharmacology, 172(3), 737-753.
- Carvalho, R. K., Santos, M. L., Souza, M. R., Rocha, T. L., Guimarães, F. S., Anselmo‐Franci, J. A., & Mazaro‐Costa, R. (2018). Chronic exposure to cannabidiol induces reproductive toxicity in male Swiss mice. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 38(9), 1215-1223.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
CBD and Fertility
The legal status of marijuana is complex and varies by state. Federally, it’s still illegal but in 2015 the FDA approved research on CBD. Currently, CBD is regulated as a supplement which makes it relatively easy to obtain (easier than Marijuana) but makes it medically more ambiguous as supplements don’t have strict regulations about concentration, dosage, etc. As CBD becomes more widely acceptable and researched, more and more are looking to it as a viable fertility supplement.
So much is still unknown at this point. More research needs to be done. But here’s what we’ve learned so far about how CBD impacts fertility.
What is CBD?
THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most active compound in marijuana. It’s what is responsible for causing the “high” typically associated with smoking marijuana.
CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is derived from the hemp plant. It is one of the active compounds in marijuana. It doesn’t cause any high and, so far, there is no evidence that CBD has harmful effects on health. In fact, CBD is reported to have therapeutic uses for a range of ailments, including:
- Epileptic seizures
- Chronic pain
- Cancer symptoms
We know very little right now about CBD affects fertility and pregnancy. Research on marijuana use has shown that smoking marijuana can decrease ovulation and IVF success. Research has also found that marijuana has a negative impact on male fertility, including significant reduction (30%) in sperm concentration and count. All of this research, however, included marijuana with THC.
CBD has been studied much less and despite all the health claims coming from CBD dispensaries and online forums, there simply isn’t enough research to confirm that CBD can boost fertility or resolve infertility. There also isn’t enough research on its impact during pregnancy.
Right now, CBD is classified as a supplement. Supplements are not given a high level of scrutiny, which means labels can be misleading. One report showed that nearly half of CBD products contained more CBD than was listed on the label, and one-quarter had less. Nearly one-fifth of the products contained THC.
When you can’t regulate dosage of a produce, it’s hard to regulate its safety or its effectiveness.
CBD, Endocannabinoids and Fertility
The list of ailments that CBD can treat seems to grow by the day. If it can alleviate seizures, chronic pain and anxiety, surely it can help fertility, right? It’s a good question, but we’re far from having a clear answer.
The interesting thing about CBD, and one of the reasons it’s thought to be a good product for fertility, is that its chemical structure looks similar to some of the hormones our body produces called endocannabinoids.
We don’t understand a lot about the complex endocannabinoid system (ECS) at this point–it’s a relatively recent discovery still being researched by experts. So far, they’ve linked it to a number of important processes in the body, including pain, immune system responses, sleep and the reproductive system. ECS receptors are what allow compounds like THC and CBD to interact with the body and do things like alleviate pain, inflammation, seizures and stress.
Endocannabinoid receptors have been found in sperm and the female reproductive tract. Because of this, it’s thought that they can improve a sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg, boost ovarian function and follicle maturation. In short, that CBD can be a natural way to boost fertility with minimal negative side effects. There is yet to be strong evidence to support this theory.
There is still much more to learn about the endocannabinoid system, its role in fertility and how it interacts with (and is impacted by) CBD.
Risks of Taking CBD
The risks of taking CBD aren’t all clear. As with any supplement, tell your doctor you’re taking it. They may even have research and guidance to help you in meeting your health and fertility goals.
Still, keep in mind that CBD is a supplement and not strictly regulated. It’s important that if you decide to take CBD, do your research and ensure that it’s the highest quality.
Forms of CBD
If you decide to use CBD, you have a whole range of options to choose from. Some are more dubious than others (CBD-infused water, for example). Some are cheaper, more concentrated, easier to swallow, faster-acting or more easily measured. However you choose to vape, swallow or apply, you have options. Here are some of the most popular:
- Oil . CBD can come as an oil or tincture. As an oil it’s easy to ingest with a dropper or to be rubbed into the skin. It’s one of the fastest-acting forms when dropped under the tongue because it’s quickly absorbed.
- Lotions and Creams . CBD is available as a topical ointment. Most commonly these are used for treating ailments like eczema and joint pain because it has a direct effect on the affected area.
- Gummies and edibles . One of the most popular ways to take CBD, gummies are quick and portable. Dosage is straightforward (no measuring from a dropper) and cost is less than most other forms.
- Vaping . Vaping is another popular option because the substance is quickly absorbed. But user beware: vaping may damage the lung tissue, the oil may contain harmful chemicals.
What Are the Side Effects?
Because so little research has been done, it’s hard to know all the side effects of taking CBD. Nausea, fatigue and irritability have been reported and can interact with certain other medications in a similar way to grapefruit juice. It can also raise levels of the blood thinner coumadin.
There is still relatively little known about CBD and years more research until we know its efficacy and safety, especially when it comes to fertility and pregnancy.
Until we know more, here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of fertility:
- Avoid smoking. We may not know about CBD but THC has been shown to be detrimental to fertility in both men and women. Even vaping CBD oil likely bears more risks than benefits.
- Tell your doctor. They need to know all the supplements you’re taking, especially if it’s CBD.
- Start with a low dose. You don’t know how you will react to CBD or how it will impact your health. Start with a high quality, low dose form. Be cautious.
- Use only high quality products. Anyone can put CBD in an oil and call it a health supplement. You want high quality ingredients with no harmful additives.
CBD may be helpful and it may not. Until we know for sure, use caution, do your research, and talk with your doctor.