The Link Between Endocannabinoids and Fertility

Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi - Content Writer

Sep 07 2021 - 4 min read

A guest article by Natalie Gray, on behalf of Worldwide Marijuana Seeds.

What is the link between endocannabinoids and fertility? Does marijuana have a positive or negative effect on fertility? First, we need to understand how cannabis impacts our body and specifically our reproductive processes. Let’s start by defining the Endocannabinoid System and how it impacts fertility.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and Fertility

The endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in the biological processes necessary for reproduction. The human body’s reproductive system is regulated by the signaling of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In a woman, the ECS influences the transport of the egg and the receptivity of the uterus through embryo implantation. The ECS is also involved in a multitude of pathways after the embryo has been fixed.

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New evidence gathered from scientists and researchers has shed light on a little-known area of the ECS that has until now been shrouded in mystery. The scientists presented a proof of the presence of the G protein-coupled receptor 18 (GPR18) receptor in sperm cells. GPR18 was for some time seen as completely separate from the more well-known CB1 and CB2 receptors. This research contributes compelling new data that the receptors play a vital role in one of the most significant biological processes necessary for reproduction.

Effect of Cannabis on Fertility

In a paper published in 2010 by BioMed Central, the authors demonstrate that disrupting the normal activities of ECS pathways by adding cannabinoids can alter various vital in utero processes, including fetal neural & cognitive development, angiogenesis (the formation of new red blood cells), cellular replication, and tissue differentiation. Other obstetrics-gynecology laboratory research recommends that marijuana consumption could endanger the developing fetus.

Let’s take a look at how the main cannabinoids in cannabis, THC and CBD, impact fertility.

Angiogenesis; red blood cell formation.
Neovascularization: angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. Isner J., Vale P., Losordo D. and el. Angiogenesis and cardiovascular disease. Dialogues in cardiovascular medicine. 2001; 3: 145-170.

THC and Fertility

Cannabis contains the compound, THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), alongside many other active compounds. THC chemicals stay for an extended period in the fat molecules of the human system. Thus, an active user of cannabis may have a problem in the status of their fertility. Inside human sperm are cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid, anandamide. Anandamide excites and triggers the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system and other human organs, including sexual organs. This suggests that cannabinoids play an essential role in the inception of humans.

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The increased volume of cannabinoids in people who use cannabis could potentially shoot the natural endocannabinoid-signal systems in reproductive organs, which could negatively affect fertility. Due to the appearance of active cannabinoid receptors within human sperm, research has been done in further detail about the cause of unusual infertility among men and women, and it was suggested that THC exhibits a potential hazard to the male reproductive system.

There is some possibility that use of high amounts of THC can be a factor in causing infertility in women as well. Cannabinoid receptors are also detected in the female reproductive system. With continual use of cannabis, small amounts of THC become present in vaginal fluid, and could theoretically increase estrogen production (and essentially act in a similar manner to the contraceptive pill, but with much lower reliability). During the process of conceiving, when the sperm gets into contact with THC, the THC absorbs the sperm, turning it into overstimulated sperm.

It seems that THC may affect fertility in males more than it affects fertility in females. Sperm in cannabis users drives too fast and too early, which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg inside the vaginal canal. This leads to burn out, where the sperm is over-stimulated and traveling at a slower pace before it gets in touch with the egg.

CBD and Fertility

Most research is discouraging about taking cannabinoids during pregnancy, but at least one investigation points to a conclusion with a reasonable explanation as to why. Conducted in Scotland and printed in the Journal of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility, the study’s researchers resolve that CBD can decrease uterine compressions, which are essential for managing postpartum bleeding. This research was done with a synthetic CBD, called abnormal cannabidiol (abn-CBD).

Download Free Guide to CBD

A report from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, points out that the ECS plays a role in motility, viability, and sperm count. The unique and varied role of the ECS in the human body, including its effects upon fertility and conception, could be an area of concern regarding cannabinoid use.

Using Cannabis during Pregnancy

Cannabis use during pregnancy can pose hazards and should come with a noteworthy warning. There has always been a contentious debate regarding the legality of cannabis, where one questions the medical benefits and how to utilize its different effects.

Is there a distinct link between ECS and fertility, particularly in females who want to become pregnant? There could well be, and from the evidence we have so far, there is some possibility that consuming high amounts of THC could contribute to infertility – both in males and females. So far, the evidence suggests that this aspect of THC affects males more than females, but this area of research is young.

Marijuana seeds, plants and other products derived from cannabis could be listed in a different classification of drug scheduling, where the purpose of usage lies to the user. Cannabis has been found to be therapeutic in some (and perhaps not an insignificant number of) patients experiencing severe health problems. Cannabis consumption is potentially helpful for a wide range of conditions, such as neuropathic pain, glaucoma, spasticity, and movement disorder. However, where pregnancy is concerned, as well as attempts to conceive, it is perhaps wise to take a more conservative approach.

The physicians at Leafwell can advise you about how cannabis may affect your fertility and other health issues. Connect with us today to apply for a medical marijuana card.

Natalie Gray is a Biochemical Engineer. She works in the Research and Development at Tsubasa Builders Inc., with a team that focuses on the design and construction of unit processes. She is a recreational & medical marijuana supporter and her love for organic chemistry brought her to medical cannabis. She grows her own flowers, works on different projects, and studies anything above and under cannabis’ roots.

Written by
Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi

Tina Magrabi is a writer and editor specializing in holistic health. She has written hundreds of articles for Weedmaps where she spearheaded the Ailments series on cannabis medicine. In addition, she has written extensively for the women's health blog, SafeBirthProject, as well as print publications including Destinations Magazine and Vero's Voice. Tina is a Yale University alumna and certified yoga instructor with a passion for the outdoors.

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