Is Marijuana Use Impacting your Semen Quality?

Dr Natacha Montpellier ND

As a naturopathic doctor who has a special focus in fertility, pregnancy, and post-partum I am frequently taken aback by the small number of men joining their partners for fertility optimization. According to the Canadian government, 30% of all fertility issues originate solely in the male partner1. However, the female partner is often the only one seeking care to enhance her fertility and chances of conception. 

It is important for men to understand that their health is just as important as their female partner’s health when it comes to planning a family. 

Currently, there are more studies being designed to look at the impact of diet and lifestyle factors on male fertility. 

In 2015, Danish researchers studied the “association between marijuana use and semen quality and hormone levels among 1,215 young, healthy, unselected men of whom 45.4% had used marijuana during the past 3 months”. 

Their study revealed :

●Men who used marijuana more than once per week during the past 3 months had a 28% lower sperm concentrationand a 29% lower sperm countcompared to non smokers. 

●Men who used both marijuana and other recreational drugs more than once per week during the past 3 months had a 52% lower sperm concentration, a 55% lower sperm countand their sperm motility was decreased by 5.8%compared to non smokers.

●Irregular use of marijuana did not seem to impact semen quality2

In a separate study, the sperm concentration and total sperm count was measured in 16 healthy men who smoked high doses of marijuana (8–20 cigarettes/day) for 4 weeks. They observed a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count which persisted into the 4 week recovery period (when no cannabis was consumed).  

A 2006 study found that couples who had smoked marijuana 1 year before going through either IVF or GIFT treatments had 28% fewer oocytes fertilised3.

Women are most certainly not immune to the negative effects of marijuana on their fertility. However, due to the higher prevalence of marijuana use in men (16.3%) compared to women (8%), it would seem that this is more of a men’s health issue4.

As legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes fast approaches in Canada, the use of marijuana in both men and women will most certainly increase. As a result, we may see a dramatic decrease in sperm concentration & sperm count, and ensuing fertility issues in otherwise healthy men.  

The takeaway

For couples who have no known fertility issues but are planning on conceiving in the near future, abstinence of marijuana 3 months prior to the first attempt is recommended. 

For men who are currently trying to conceive and are experiencing fertility/sperm issues, complete abstinence of marijuana is recommended until pregnancy is confirmed.   

To increase your chances of conception via IVF or GIFT, marijuana should be avoided for 1 year prior to the procedure in both partners. 


  2. Gundersen, T. D., Jørgensen, N., Andersson, A.-M., Bang, A. K., Nordkap, L., Skakkebæk, N. E., … Jensen, T. K. (2015). Association Between Use of Marijuana and Male Reproductive Hormones and Semen Quality: A Study Among 1,215 Healthy Young Men. American Journal of Epidemiology, 182(6), 473–481.
  3. Klonoff-Cohen, H. S., Natarajan, L., & Victoria Chen, R. (2006). A prospective study of the effects of female and male marijuana use on in vitro fertilization (IVF) and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) outcomes. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 194(2), 369–376.

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