Most of us are ashamed to discuss this. But the fact is that infertility is a surprisingly common issue.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 10% of women in the age group of 15 – 44 have trouble getting or staying pregnant.
And women are not alone in this. Men too are equally encountering fertility problems. Statistics show that 35% of couples facing issues with infertility are due to the male counterpart, while another 35 percent is due to the female. In 20% of the cases, both the man and woman’s infertility had a role to play.
There are several fertility treatment methods and medications available to us today. Meanwhile, quite a few alternative therapies have also come up to help couples overcome infertility issues.
One such popular option is CBD.
A chemical compound found in cannabis plants, cannabidiol, or CBD, in short, is a natural, safe, and an amazingly potent agent of homeostasis.
There is both scientific and anecdotal proof to validate CBD’s power to heal and provide an overall sense of wellbeing.
And that includes – in part – fertility issues as well.
In this article, we will delve into the finer details of how well CBD does that as well as in how many ways it profoundly impacts human fertility.
ECS, CANNABINOIDS & FERTILITY
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of two key cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana plants – generally known as cannabis plants. The other key chemical component of these plants is THC or ∆-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol.
When we consume cannabinoids in any form, they work within the body to help maintain the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a large regulatory system, within the central nervous system.
The ECS comprises a large number of receptors, concentrated mostly in the brain, but found in almost all internal organs, the skin, and several other parts of our body, including our reproductive organs.
CBD and THC – two chemical compounds with similar molecular structures – interact mainly with two receptors produced by the ECS – CB1 and CB2. Although they also interact with several others, most of the functions of these two cannabinoids involve these two receptors.
These receptors are mainly generated to interact with the body’s endogenous cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids). However, they also bind and are stimulated by these phyto-(plant)cannabinoids.
However, CBD and THC interact quite differently with the ECS. While THC binds with these receptors to activate them, CBD indirectly triggers reactions that involve stimulating the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids to bind with the receptors.
This is why CBD has a better and safer effect on the body, which reacts well to it. CBD helps maintain and regulate the internal chemical balance of the body, enabling it to perform normally and to its optimum limit.
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t directly bind with the receptors. So, it doesn’t have any psychological impact, like mind-altering, psychedelic, and hallucinatory effects, associated with marijuana.
Studies have found CBD to possess a multitude of therapeutic effects, including:
- Antiemetic (reduces nausea & vomiting)
- Analgesic (relieves pain)
- Anticonvulsant (controls seizures)
- Anxiolytic (combats anxiety)
- Sleep Regulation
- Appetite Regulation
- Lowers High BP
- Promotes Heart, Lungs, Liver, and Kidney Health
While these are the usual benefits, some people have found using CBD very beneficial in some unlikely situations, including in certain aspects of fertility and reproduction.
So, does it promote fertility? If so, how?
CBD & FEMALE FERTILITY
There seems to be a close link between the female reproductive system and the ECS.
A woman’s body goes through several hormonal ups and downs during her menstrual cycle and pregnancy. These trigger some reactions in the ECS that lead to certain changes in the way the cannabinoid receptors and their associated synthetic and metabolic enzymes (present in the brain, ovaries, uterus, and those in circulation) react.
Any changes in the ECS would automatically exhibit themselves by affecting fertility, pregnancy, and may lead to a failed pregnancy or spontaneous abortion.
While cannabinoids, like CBD, can be good for conception, any cannabinoid can pose a threat to a fertilized egg.
Some studies suggest that CBD could support fertility by reducing oxidation or inflammation, enhancing hormone balance and egg quality, thereby readying the body for sexual intercourse, and acting as an adjunct to diet and lifestyle changes.
Anandamide, Fertility & Ovum Production
Among women, activation and regulation of anandamide production are critical to fertility and pregnancy. Anandamide is one of the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids that is critical to keeping a person happy, excited, and feel the pleasures of life.
While high levels of anandamide are needed to trigger ovulation, its levels need to reduce during the embryo implantation stage.
As a woman is sexually aroused, her body triggers a chain reaction in the ECS that results in ovulation, which is the most essential process for a successful pregnancy.
However, during the embryo implantation stage, i.e. after the egg has met the sperm and is trying to nestle into the uterus, the anandamide levels need to drop to allow this process.
Anandamide, CBD, and Fertility
In cases of women who suffer from erratic or low anandamide levels, a boost from CBD can help promote a healthier cycle by preventing the breakdown of the body’s natural cannabinoid by the enzyme, known in the scientific parlance as FAAH or fatty acid amide hydrolase.
CBD can boost anandamide levels and support successful ovulation when high levels of anandamide are required.
Nevertheless, CBD use after conception could interfere with embryo implantation and potentially cause a failed pregnancy, since (as we mentioned earlier) embryo implantation requires low levels of anandamide.
There is some evidence that CBD may be effective in reducing uterine contractions during labor and delivery and enabling smoother and more pain-free labor.
According to a study, published in the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found “both endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids exert a potent and direct relaxant effect on human pregnant myometrium” (the muscular middle layer of the uterine wall).
Another 2010 study, conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the National University of Ireland Galway, which was published in the Journal of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility in January 2010, also found that CBD can have “inhibitory effect on oxytocin-induced myometrial contractions” during labor and delivery.
Researchers figured that this must be because CBD generally acts as an antagonist for oxytocin that causes these contractions. These studies indicate that CBD could ease the delivery process.
CBD & MALE FERTILITY
While there is some evidence of CBD enhancing fertility among men, some studies indicate that chronic CBD exposure can impair sexual behavior and fertility among male mice. This suggests that CBD oil could inhibit fertility.
Meanwhile, some studies found an “association between marijuana use and sexual frequency in the US”. One such study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that cannabis users had more sexual urges and had at least 20% more sex than non-users.
A recent study on male mice discovered a 30% reduction in fertility rate and a 20% lowering in the size of litters in the group treated with high doses of cannabidiol (CBD).
When another similar group of mice was treated with lower doses, they showed less interest in engaging with the female counterparts and reduced performance. This could mean that CBD may have similar effects on human males as well!
Besides, there is also evidence of cannabis reducing a man’s sex drive. A 2015 study, made available with the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, shows that chronic cannabis use can substantially lower a man’s sex drive as well as reduces his fertility.
A very old trial of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, on sea urchins, found that “cannabinoids directly affect the process of fertilization in sea urchins by reducing the fertilizing capacity of sperm”.
A 2019 study, published in the Human Reproduction, studied the blood and semen samples of 662 men, who visited the Massachusetts General Hospital Centre for fertility treatment, and found that cannabis users had higher (62.7 million) sperm count per ml than those who had never tried cannabis in their lives (45.7 million).
When it comes to testosterone levels, CBD seems to have a positive impact. According to a 2017 study, published in the Andrology, men with recent cannabis use had a higher concentration of testosterone than those who weren’t consuming it.
Besides, CBD can hinder the breakdown of the T-hormone, letting it remain in the body over a prolonged period. At least that is what a 1988 paper, published in the Drug Metabolism and Disposition, indicated.
While THC has been generally found to be detrimental for testosterone production, a 1983 study indicated that both CBD and THC could “stimulate as well as inhibit testicular testosterone production”.
CBD PROMOTES CONDITIONS NEEDED FOR FERTILITY
Admittedly, the above studies are quite contradictory – they are inconclusive at best. There is still a large lacuna of insufficient proof of CBD boosting fertility among humans (male or female).
CBD seems to have quite a few benefits for women’s fertility (along with a few negatives). However, the studies on men’s fertility have mostly yielded negative results, with a few scattered positives.
Although more testing and clinical trials need to be conducted to establish a substantial (and hopefully a positive) link between CBD and fertility, CBD has already proven to have a positive effect on several other conditions that need to be regulated to ensure normal fertility among humans. They include:
- Reducing Stress & Anxiety
- Promoting Sleep
- Modulating Mood
- Reducing Body Fat
- Preventing Nausea and Vomiting
Is CBD Safe For Conception, Pregnancy, and Delivery
Deciding whether or not to use CBD oil when trying to overcome fertility issues or get pregnant can be quite complicated.
But, bear in mind that there’s no alternative to a good lifestyle and healthy habits when it comes to promoting reproductive health.
While CBD is typically considered to be safe and well-tolerated by humans (even according to the World Health Organization) more research is still required on its effects on human fertility rates – as most clinical trials were conducted on lab animals.
A fair warning: Just because someone believes that CBD helped him or her (or them) overcome their fertility issues, it does not necessarily mean that it would be the same for you.
At this stage, it’s best to discuss with your doctor and compare all the pros and cons of using CBD when you’re considering having a baby.