The use of cannabis is on the rise, as it has become legal for both medical and recreational use in several states across the country.This comes with its own unique challenges. One of those challenges is the negative effect that marijuana can have on male fertility.
There is a body of evidence today that supports this finding and studies now suggest that the impact is multi-factorial. The use of marijuana can lead to:
- Reduced sperm count
- Reduced sperm concentration
- Changes in sperm motility and morphology
- Hormone changes
- Reduction in libido and sexual performance
- Reduced sperm viability
Unfortunately, many of these effects can linger for weeks and even months after discontinuing the use of marijuana. Dr. Daniel Mazur at Urology Associates has been involved in researching and reporting the effects of marijuana use on male fertility. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things he and the team discovered.
For many years, studies have shown that sperm have cannabinoid receptors on them, which suggests that cannabis has the ability to disrupt sperm function. Additionally, studies have shown a high correlation of men using marijuana who have reduced sperm counts and concentration. In fact, men who use marijuana more than once a week have nearly a 30% reduction in sperm count and sperm concentration, and this has been shown to last five to six weeks even after they stop using marijuana.
In studies across both the US and the UK, research shows that men who have used marijuana three months prior to giving a semen sample also have abnormal sperm shape, also known as morphology. This is even the case in younger men – those who were 30 years old or less. Use of cannabis at both therapeutic and recreational dosages also showed a reduction in sperm motility, the ability for sperm to move efficiently, as well as viability, how long the sperm live.
In addition to the changes in sperm quality, counts, and viability, marijuana also impacts the reproductive hormones, such as the luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone plays an important role in fertility, especially through its role in regulating testosterone levels. Research has shown that the recent use has a more detrimental impact than the frequency of use when looking at testosterone levels in men.
Another effect of cannabis use is that men who have prolonged and consistent exposure can experience testicular atrophy, a condition where the testes diminish in size and can even lead to the loss of function. This is due to direct damage to the seminiferous tubules (the tubes where the sperm is produced). While this condition can often be reversible, it is a factor to consider when evaluating male fertility in those individuals who have a long history of frequent marijuana use.
Lastly, there is strong evidence that erectile dysfunction, known as ED, is also a side effect for men who use marijuana. Long considered an aphrodisiac in past cultures, research today actually shows that it has a negative impact on sexual performance. In fact, in one study 78% of men who reportedly experienced ED were frequent marijuana users vs only 3% who did not. It is believed that cannabis induces ED by causing damage to the endothelial cells, those cells that live on the interior surface of the blood vessels and help to maintain an erection.
If you are thinking of having a family in the near future, it’s important to know the impact that marijuana use may have on fertility. If you are interested in talking to a doctor or getting tested, please contact the Center for Male Fertility and Reproductive Medicine at Urology Associates. Our team works with the regional fertility experts and stands ready to help you.