Marijuana is Now Legal in New York– But Does It Impact Your Fertility?

In late March, New York formally legalized marijuana -- joining 14 other states that allow adults to use marijuana recreationally. (1) Marijuana and other forms of cannabis have also been gaining popularity for medicinal purposes. This means that it is time to revisit the conversation regarding whether or not marijuana affects your fertility. As it turns out, an estimated 13% of people seeking fertility consultation report using cannabis within the prior year. (2) Marijuana use has also increased among pregnant people over the past several decades, (3) and some have even turned to marijuana as a way to quell nausea during their first trimester. (4)

In the past few years, we have started learning more about the effects of marijuana on your body, whether you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant. According to research, it seems that marijuana does not necessarily cause direct damage to the ovaries but instead could interfere with the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, a fancy word for the centers in your brain that help to regulate your hormones. Basically, Δ9-THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes the “high”), is a small and fat soluble molecule, so it can travel quickly to your brain and fat. (5) We think it keeps some key hormones from being released from your brain, which can, in turn, hinder estrogen and progesterone production. (6) In fact, one study reported that people who used marijuana at least three times a week were at greater risk for anovulatory menstrual cycles, (7) which could make it harder for your ovaries to release an egg.

The picture is somewhat ambiguous for males undergoing fertility treatment as well, though there have been some reports of increased rates of pregnancy loss. (8) One recent study from Harvard assessed couples pursuing fertility treatment, and people who had smoked marijuana had a higher sperm concentration than those who did not. (9) At this point in time, it is hard to know what this means for your fertility prospects, and it is possible that marijuana could negatively alter sperm shape and function. (10,11)

Aside from impacting fertility, using marijuana during pregnancy may also affect the fetus. Marijuana use during pregnancy has been associated with higher rates of adverse effects, ranging from preterm birth and stillbirth to challenges with paying attention in school. (12,13,14,15) Based on animal studies, it is likely that THC can cross into the placenta and thus could interact with fetal brain development. (16) Still, it is important to remember that many studies use a small sample size and do not necessarily account for other behaviors -- so it is difficult to determine whether these adverse effects stem from marijuana use or something else altogether (like tobacco use, for example).

The bottom line: while there might be some medicinal benefits to marijuana, most physicians recommend hohlding off on visiting the dispensary until more safety data is available. We need more research to figure out exactly how marijuana impacts pregnancy and fertility, but there is enough evidence to warn against it if you are pregnant or planning on conceiving. Many find yoga or meditation to be great for stress relief if you find yourself feeling anxious, and try ginger tea or vitamin B6 as a quick fix for morning sickness. Having an honest conversation with your doctors about your goals is also a great starting point for ensuring that you and your body are as prepared as possible for a healthy pregnancy.


(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/31/nyregion/cuomo-ny-legal-weed.html
(2) Jordan, T., Ngo, B., & Jones, C. A. (2020). The use of cannabis and perceptions of its effect on fertility among infertility patients. Human reproduction open, 2020(1), hoz041.
(3) Nassan, F. L., Arvizu, M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Gaskins, A. J., Williams, P. L., Petrozza, J. C., ... & EARTH Study Team. (2019). Marijuana smoking and outcomes of infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technologies. Human Reproduction, 34(9), 1818-1829.
(4) Nassan, F. L., Arvizu, M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Gaskins, A. J., Williams, P. L., Petrozza, J. C., ... & EARTH Study Team. (2019). Marijuana smoking and outcomes of infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technologies. Human Reproduction, 34(9), 1818-1829.
(5) American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Committee Opinion 722: Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation.
(6) Brents, L. K. (2016). Focus: sex and gender health: Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the female reproductive system. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 89(2), 175.
(7) Brents, L. K. (2016). Focus: sex and gender health: Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the female reproductive system. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 89(2), 175.
(8) Nassan, F. L., Arvizu, M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Gaskins, A. J., Williams, P. L., Petrozza, J. C., ... & EARTH Study Team. (2019). Marijuana smoking and outcomes of infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technologies. Human Reproduction, 34(9), 1818-1829.
(9) Nassan, F. L., Arvizu, M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Williams, P. L., Attaman, J., Petrozza, J., ... & EARTH Study Team Ford Jennifer B Keller Myra G. (2019). Marijuana smoking and markers of testicular function among men from a fertility centre. Human Reproduction, 34(4), 715-723.
(10) Payne, K. S., Mazur, D. J., Hotaling, J. M., & Pastuszak, A. W. (2019). Cannabis and male fertility: A systematic Review. The Journal of urology, 202(4), 674-681.
(11) Sansone, A., Di Dato, C., de Angelis, C., Menafra, D., Pozza, C., Pivonello, R., ... & Gianfrilli, D. (2018). Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility. Reproductive biology and endocrinology, 16(1), 1-11.
(12) Brents, L. K. (2016). Focus: sex and gender health: Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the female reproductive system. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 89(2), 175.
(13) Volkow, N. D., Compton, W. M., & Wargo, E. M. (2017). The risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Jama, 317(2), 129-130.
(14) American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Committee Opinion 722: Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation.(15) Volkow, N. D., Compton, W. M., & Wargo, E. M. (2017). The risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. Jama, 317(2), 129-130.
(16) American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Committee Opinion 722: Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation.

The First Step Towards Your Future

Every journey begins with a first step. Attend a free seminar, speak with
a patient concierge, or schedule a consultation.

Get Started

Nov 16th - Virtual Egg Freezing 101 Seminar. Nov 16th - Virtual Egg Freezing 101 Semin…. Learn More