Can cannabis impact your sperm health? It’s a fair question. Other vices such as alcohol and smoking cigarettes have been shown to have varying effects on male fertility, so, understandably, you may be concerned about marijuana too. Here we’ll break down the ongoing research in this area and give some advice on how to cut down on cannabis if you’re trying to conceive.
Cannabis and Male Fertility – The Science
As with most things to do with fertility, there is still a lot of research needed in this area. However, several small studies have taken place investigating the impact of cannabis on sperm health – and they all seem to indicate the same thing. Getting stoned isn’t good for your swimmers. Here are just a few of the key findings from studies in recent years.
Cannabis and sperm count
Generally speaking, the research implies that regular cannabis use could decrease sperm count. A study of 1,215 young Danish guys, back in 2015, found that sperm count was around 29% lower for men who smoked weed more than once a week. If they were using cannabis alongside other recreational drugs, the situation was even worse – as many showed a decrease of 55%.
However, in a more recent (albeit smaller) study in 2019, scientists found the opposite to be true. When looking at 662 men who attended fertility clinics, those that had smoked weed in the past had a higher sperm count. Whilst this might be music to the ears of weed fans, it’s important to remember that the data is kind of unreliable – as it was solely based on self-reporting (aka some guys could have lied and said they never smoked weed even if they had!)
Cannabis and sperm morphology & motility
You’d like to think that all sperm have that classic tadpole shape, but the truth is that many sperm are abnormally shaped. It’s quite common to only have between 4% and 14% ‘normal formed’ sperm cells in a sample, but it’s when that number drops below 4% that it could impact your chances of conceiving.
A 2019 systematic review looked at 48 studies relating to cannabis and fertility and this gave some indication that weed could impact sperm morphology. Whilst the research is far from conclusive, it did note that in some studies – of both animals and men – abnormal morphology was found in higher prevalence in subjects that had been exposed to cannabis.
Something that the review was a bit more emphatic about was the effect of cannabis on sperm motility. It found that there was an ‘extensive body of evidence’ to support suspicions that smoking weed could reduce sperm motility.
Sperm motility is probably a more important indicator of fertility compared to sperm morphology – so this is yet another reason why cutting back on cannabis is probably a good idea.
Side effects of smoking weed
As with habits like binge drinking, it’s not just about the direct impact a bad habit like smoking weed can have on your fertility. When we are intoxicated, be that through alcohol or drugs, we tend to make poorer decisions for our health. If you are on a preconception health kick, getting stoned might make it harder to stick to your new regime.
You might find that you eat more junk food (the munchies aren’t just a stoner stereotype!) and that you lose motivation to exercise or look after your mental wellbeing – which could all have a knock-on effect on your fertility.
Another thing to consider is your sleep hygiene. Whilst many people claim that they need to smoke marijuana to get to sleep, research has actually also shown that regular smoking sessions could mess with your sleep pattern and cause insomnia. Sleep is important for healthy sperm production, so that’s another reason to consider quitting.
Finally, let’s talk about erectile dysfunction. Whilst not technically to do with sperm health, it can be very difficult to conceive naturally if you’re struggling to stand to attention. Some studies have shown that regular cannabis use can increase the chance of erectile dysfunction and even make it harder to reach orgasm!
How to quit smoking cannabis
So, there is still a lot of research to be done, but it seems like whilst the occasional smoke might not do too much damage to your swimmers, regular cannabis consumption could potentially harm your fertility.
If you are a regular weed smoker, it might not be as simple as stopping overnight. As with any addiction, preparing to stop and getting yourself the right support, is key to quitting for good. Try to really focus on why you want to quit – for some men the desire to become a father is a really good driver for making this lifestyle overhaul!
Another good way to get through the tough phase of quitting is to replace your weed habit with something else. Every time you get a craving why not replace smoking with something different (and healthier). A 5-minute meditation or walk around the block can help distract you from your craving and over time you’ll notice those cravings fade.
Of course, never be afraid to seek medical advice if you’re struggling to quit. Even if weed is illegal in your country, your doctor will be able to help and advise you in confidence.
Other things you can do to improve sperm health
If you are leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle, quitting cannabis alone won’t necessarily turn your sperm health around. It’s important to take a holistic approach to your preconception plan and try to lead a healthier life day to day. Reducing stress, increasing exercise and eating sperm superfoods can all help you improve your fertility and health.
If you need a bit more structure and guidance, why not sign up for our 90 Day Sperm Health Bootcamp, which is full of diet and lifestyle advice to help you on your journey.