Researching Pregnancy and Marijuana
When I saw a large marijuana leaf on the cover of, not High Times Magazine, but the journal of Contemporary OB/Gyn, I realized how popular this topic has become in the world of fertility and pregnancy. This peer-reviewed cover story clarifies what researchers know about all types of marijuana use during the process of fertility, pregnancy, and even during lactation1. Even if you take CBD gummies periodically for a restful night of sleep, you will want to read on for the knowns, the unknowns, and yet to be knowns about fertility, pregnancy and marijuana.
With the legalization of marijuana in several states throughout the U.S., its abundance and social acceptance are common. Now, instead of inhaling harmful particulate matter, marijuana can be ingested (gummy, lozenge, soda, chocolate, cookies), used topically, or absorbed via rectal or vaginal suppository.
Because of its acceptance, researchers have access to learning more than ever about the effects of cannabis use in terms of fertility, as well as its effects during pregnancy and lactation. For instance, people are asking more questions: Could it be used for menstrual cramps during the months while you are trying to conceive? Would it be fine to ingest for nausea during pregnancy?
Marijuana research mainly focuses on two of its many chemical components—THC and CBD. THC is a psychoactive ingredient, which most people associate with feeling ‘high’2. CBD is not a psychoactive substance and appears to have “antiseizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, antipsychotic, and anti-anxiety properties”3. With all of those very positive “anti’s”, CBD can sound like a helpful therapy to use at any time.
Here’s the caveat, though: CBD products have been found to be inaccurately labeled. Certain CBD products have far higher dosages of CBD than advertised, or the products actually include THC and are psychoactive4. Additionally, even the pure CBD products have reported side effects of nausea, diarrhea, mood change, fatigue, and irritability5, all of which are less than helpful during pregnancy and even unpleasant around menses.
In terms of THC and the research, we now know that THC can cross the placenta and has been found in breast milk6. As such, the US surgeon general, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all recommend that pregnant and lactating patients completely abstain from using marijuana7.
Why? Although THC use during preconception or pregnancy appears so far to have no association with miscarriage or stillbirth, its use during pregnancy has been associated with “fetal growth restriction, low birth weight, preterm birth, and neonatal intensive care unit admissions8”. Additionally, marijuana exposure during pregnancy and through breastfeeding can be associated with cognitive impairment in offspring9.
For those trying to conceive, research demonstrates that THC negatively affects sex hormones, ovulation, and menstrual regularity. Having less regular ovulation could mean fewer attempts to conceive, and irregular periods or absent periods can further impact your fertile window. In some studies, THC’s effect on menstrual cycles ranged from no effect on some to increasing cycle length “only with frequent marijuana use more than 3 times in the prior 3 months to possibly increased anovulation and suppressed reproductive hormone levels”10.
Although marijuana is a natural substance, it has many known effects that are unhelpful for fertility and harmful during pregnancy and lactation. Although it might be helpful for other conditions, such as CBD’s analgesic effects, we do not recommend its use while you are trying to conceive or during any part of the fertility process. Avoiding marijuana should be at the top of your list when implementing small changes to make a big impact on your fertility and your pregnancy. Contact your physician if you have more questions about fertility, pregnancy and marijuana.
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1. Lo, J. O., MD, Hanna, C. B., PhD, & Hedges, Jason, C., MD, PhD. (2021). Effects of Marijuana Use on Female Reproductive Health and Pregnancy. Contemporary Ob/Gyn, 66(10), 24-30.
2. Ibid, p. 25.
3. Lo, J. O., MD, Hanna, C. B., PhD, & Hedges, Jason, C., MD, PhD. (2021). Impact of Marijuana. Contemporary Ob/Gyn, 66(10), 31.
4. Ibid, p. 31.
5. Ibid, p. 31.
6. Lo, J. O., MD, Hanna, C. B., PhD, & Hedges, Jason, C., MD, PhD. (2021). Effects of Marijuana Use on Female Reproductive Health and Pregnancy. Contemporary Ob/Gyn, 66(10), 24-30.
7. Ibid, p. 26.
8. Ibid, p. 30.
9. Ibid, p. 30.
10. Ibid, p. 25.