Myth busted: Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant, says study

Myth busted: Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant, says study

Doctors are still cautioning women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to not use the drug.

While it might increase your chances of surviving on Doritos and Froot Loops for a whole week and decrease your chances of getting off the couch, but according to a recent study, there’s one thing that marijuana doesn’t decrease and that is the chance of you getting pregnant!

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The study, which is led by School of Public Health researchers and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH), states that marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple’s chances of getting pregnant. It is the first study to look at the link between the probability of conception and marijuana use, according to a press release.

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Through Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), a web-based prospective cohort study of North American couples, the researchers surveyed 4,194 women aged 21 to 45 living in the United States or Canada. The study specifically targeted women in stable relationships who were not using contraception or fertility treatment.

Female participants were given the option to invite their male partners to participate, and 1,125 of them enrolled. Women were given follow-up surveys every eight weeks for a year or until they became pregnant, started fertility treatments, or dropped out.

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The researchers found that over a period of four years — 2013 through 2017 — approximately 12 percent of female participants and 14 percent of male participants reported marijuana use in the two months before completing their original survey. After 12 cycles of follow-up, the study concluded that conception probabilities were similar among couples that used marijuana and those that did not. In other words, the odds of getting pregnant remained more or less the same in couples that partook as compared to those that didn’t.

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"Given the increasing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana across the nation, we thought it was an opportune time to investigate the association between marijuana use and fertility," lead author Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology, said in a press release.

While the study did conclude that the chances of getting pregnancy remained vastly unchanged by the drug, researchers stressed that questions about the effects of marijuana use still remain. As one example, they said, classifying people correctly according to the amount of marijuana used, especially when relying on self-reported data, is challenging. "Future studies with day-specific data on marijuana use might better be able to distinguish acute from chronic effects of marijuana use, and evaluate whether effects depend on other factors,” they wrote.

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The study’s findings come at an important time, when more and more states in the US and Canada are legalizing the herb, for medicinal as well as recreational consumption. California declared the recreational use of cannabis legal on January 1, 2018, which was shortly followed by Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to reverse Obama-administration-era precedents that assured minimal federal interference in states where the drug remains legal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said that cannabis will become legal across the country by this summer.


Canada’s Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) said in a statement last year that cannabis already the most commonly used illicit drug among pregnant women, reports the HuffPost Canada. The SOGC's concern is that the upcoming legalization of the drug will falsely reinforce the idea that it's harmless and result in more pregnant women using it, could have damaging effects on the unborn child.

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"Evidence-based data has shown that cannabis use during pregnancy can adversely affect the growth and development of the baby, and lead to long-term learning and behavioral consequences," the SOGC said. So while using marijuana doesn’t lower the chances of getting pregnant, continuing to use the drug while pregnant can have serious consequences.

A recent US study found that a growing number of pregnant women are using marijuana, with the biggest increase occurring in teens and young adults. Among teen mothers under age 18, marijuana use during pregnancy surged from about 13 percent in 2009 to almost 22 percent in 2016, researchers found. Over that same period, the proportion of pregnant women aged 18 to 24 using marijuana rose from 10 percent to 19 percent.

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"We are just scratching the surface in terms of understanding cannabis use in pregnancy," said Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "The more we study cannabis use during pregnancy, the more we are realizing how harmful it can be,” he added.

Recent articles have suggested that more parents (especially mothers) are opening up about their own cannabis use, and there are entire Facebook groups and social media communities devoted to moms who indulge in the herb.


According to a report by The Globe and Mail, marijuana use in pregnancy may be on the rise in part because the legalization of medical marijuana has made people think of the drug as less dangerous, even during pregnancy.

"Because of the possibility of concurrent use of marijuana and other substances of abuse, the evidence of its direct association with preterm labor, fetal growth restriction, preterm birth, low birthweight, and stillbirth is still debatable, though these adverse effects lean more towards an increased likelihood of occurrence,” said Barbara Yankey, a public health researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

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Anything that impairs your judgment while you're parenting is a bad idea, according to Dr. Michael Dickinson, the president of the Canadian Paediatric Society. In conversation with HuffPost Canada, Dr. Dickinson said, "Anyway you slice it though, mixing drugs and parenting would be on the same scale as mixing drugs and driving."

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