Cannabis can affect the body in a number of ways, including sperm concentration, a new study from Duke University found.
The small study, which looked at the sperm of 37 men who either used or did not use cannabis, concluded that use of the substance can significantly change a person’s sperm concentration. The study also looked at how cannabis use affected ejaculation, semen volume, semen pH, and motility, and found that the substance did not create a significant change in these categories.
Sperm concentration affects a person’s ability to conceive, so a lower concentration could make it more difficult to have a child
Sperm concentration, along with other factors like sperm motility and testosterone levels, can affect a person’s ability to conceive a child, according to the Mayo Clinic. So the study’s findings suggest a person who uses cannabis may have more difficulty conceiving than someone who does not use cannabis.
Since sperm concentration can greatly affect a person’s reproductive abilities, the study’s authors also looked at the potential for this trait to be passed from a cannabis user down to their offspring. Based on previous studies about cigarette smokers’ ability to pass on certain traits, they found that there is a chance cannabis users who have genetically-changed sperm might cause their children to also have genetically changed sperm.
“What we have found is that the effects of cannabis use on males and their reproductive health are not completely null, in that there’s something about cannabis use that affects the genetic profile in sperm,” Scott Kollins, a senior author of the study, said in a statement.
Marijuana-smoking college men volunteered for the study led by Lani J. Burkman, PhD, director of andrology at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The smokers weren’t the only ones who got high. The drug affected their sperm, too. These stoned sperm party hard. And then? They burn out, researchers say.
Marijuana and Fertility Timing
Burkman announced the findings at this week’s meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
Burkman’s team studied only men. But she says that when women smoke marijuana, the active ingredient — THC — appears in their reproductive organs and vaginal fluids. Sperm exposed to this THC are likely to act just as sperm exposed to THC in the testes.
So the little guys are fast out of the gate, right? What’s wrong with a little head start?
The germ cells in the testicles that produce sperm work best in temperatures slightly below normal body temperatures. If the temperature within the testicles is elevated by only two, three, or four degrees Fahrenheit, both sperm and testosterone production are negatively affected. To keep the testicles cool, the scrotum (the skin sac that holds them) loosens up so that the testes are held away from the body. But if you wear tight jeans, bicycle shorts, or leather pants that hold the testicles close against your body, their temperature may rise. This also may happen if you wear under shorts made of nylon or other artificial fibers, even if they’re not tight. Such fabrics hold in more heat than cotton and wool, materials that “breathe.” Keeping your genital area cool also helps avoid infections that thrive in warm, moist places.
Antibiotics including tetracyclines, gentamicin, neomycin, erythromycin, and nitrofurantoin (in extremely high doses) can negatively affect sperm generation, movement, and density. Cimetidine, the active ingredient in Tagamet, can sometimes cause impotence and semen abnormalities. Drugs with ranitidine and famotidine, however, do not seem to have the same effect. Cyclosporine is used to improve graft survival in organ transplants but may have a detrimental effect on male fertility.
Steroids commonly used by men to build more muscular bodies can also inhibit the ability to have a baby. Thought by some to improve sexual performance, they actually act as a male contraceptive by depressing hormone secretion and interfering with normal sperm production.
Men—Avoid hot water and tight pants!
Three herbs that were tested in laboratory studies on human sperm and on hamster eggs produced adverse effects in either the sperm or the eggs, or both. Researchers at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California have found that tiny amounts of St. John’s wort, echinacea purpurea, and ginkgo biloba made the eggs impossible or difficult to fertilize, changed the genetic material in sperm, and reduced a sperm’s viability.
If you are thinking about getting pregnant, you can do many simple, effective things right now to improve your chances of conception, because lifestyle can have profound effects on the reproductive functions of women and men. This means that increasing your fertility potential is something that you both can do without outside help. In addition to adopting a fertility-boosting diet and getting into the fertility zones for weight and exercise, there are a number of lifestyle choices you can make for improving fertility naturally.
If possible, try to cut back at work and/or reduce the amount of traveling in your schedules for a number of months. If you can’t reduce your responsibilities at work, do make a point of not taking on any extra projects at home. Tip the scales in your favor–make this a special time for the two of you, to kick back and relax. Several relaxation techniques are discussed in Chapter 4: Ease Emotional Stress—The Harvard Behavioral Medicine Program for Infertility.
Cocaine may have a negative impact on sperm development. Recent animal experiments have shown that it damages the cells that produce sperm.