Ovulation takes place when the egg is released from an ovary. It then travels down the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by the sperm. This usually happens around 10-14 days after a period. This timing can change month-to-month and vary from person to person. Women are most fertile during ovulation; that’s why people trying to conceive track it. The most optimal time to get pregnant is a few days before ovulation or the day of. Unfortunately for those trying to conceive, ovulation is something that is easily interfered with. But what about cannabis? Does smoking or consuming it disrupt ovulation and decrease the odds of getting pregnant?
Cannabis and Ovulation
Tobacco and marijuana are both things people smoke, which often leads to their coupling; people assume that if cigarette smoking is bad, cannabis smoke is as well. But – as study after study has demonstrated – their effects do not mirror each other.
To be fair, there is research that indicates smoking cannabis isn’t a healthy route of consumption – vaping is healthier. But that doesn’t mean we can go around mixing up Mary Jane and Joe Camel.
Even so, there are some arguments that marijuana interferes with infertility in certain ways. Some argue that marijuana decreases libido, perhaps by assuring that the only thing you want to “do” is sleep. But that is largely strain dependent – certain strains don’t decrease libido but, instead, they enhance it.
Others argue that marijuana decreases the odds of getting pregnant (while, ironically, arguing at the same time that it makes people more likely to get pregnant by lowering their inhibitions). It’s commonly said that cannabis does this by interfering with ovulation. Anovulation prevents pregnancy but so does ovulation that appears to have a mind of its own. However, there is no research looking into this directly.
What Dictates Ovulation
Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have (around two million of them). Once ovulation begins, 300,000 or so of these eggs still exist. A few hundred are then shed through ovulation.
Not all women ovulate, even if they experience a menstrual cycle. Anovulation (or lack of ovulation) happens when ovulation is disrupted for some reason. It can happen early or late in the cycle (in adolescents or those who are approaching menopause). But the underlying cause is typically hormonal.
Every month, the female body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy (periods aren’t just to annoy the hell out of us). Hormones dictate this cycle, especially estrogen and progesterone.
Certain lifestyle factors can cause a menstrual cycle without ovulation by interfering with estrogen or progesterone; affect the hormones and you’ll affect the cycle. They can also disrupt ovulation and keep it from being regular. Some of the most common disruptors include extreme exercise, poor eating habits, being underweight or overweight, and stress.
Women who are experiencing regular periods (cycles between 24 to 35 days) are most likely ovulating. Periods that are overly heavy, sporadic, too frequent or too infrequent may indicate that ovulation is off.
Smoking Cigarettes and Ovulation
A great deal is known about smoking tobacco and fertility. The short of it is cigarette smoking isn’t good for anything pregnancy related (not pre-pregnancy or during); heck cigarette smoking isn’t good for anything at all.
Smoking is known to interfere with present fertility and possibly lower fertility in the future. The reason lies in the science discussed above: women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. If those eggs are damaged by tobacco use, there is nothing that can be done to repair them. There is no Egg B.
Smoking, just as it is known to do to the skin, ages eggs prematurely. And this can cause women to go into menopause earlier than average (around four years earlier). Once a woman goes through menopause, she is no longer able to get pregnant.
Most women don’t go through menopause until they no longer desire to have children (the average natural age in the US is 51). However, some women go through it at forty or earlier, during years when they still may want to expand their families.
This makes staying away from anything that induces menopause important, especially as 50 becomes the new 40. Women are having kids at older ages (in just the past four years, the average age a woman has a first child has increased from 26 years to 28 years), a trend that is bound to continue. But that doesn’t mean menopause will adapt.
Smoking just doesn’t age a woman’s eggs; it impacts fertility more directly too. The more cigarettes a woman smokes in a day, the longer she will – on average – take to get pregnant. One study found that only 45 percent of women who smoked more than ten cigarettes a day got pregnant within a three-month period of trying to conceive. 60 percent of non-smokers achieved pregnancy while 50 percent of moderate smokers (one to ten cigarettes a day) achieved it.
If You Know, You Know
For most women, it’s not too difficult to tell when ovulation is occurring, allowing individuals to decide for themselves whether their cannabis use leads to sporadic ovulation or not. If women who use cannabis continue to have regular periods, and regular signs of ovulation, it’s safe to assume that marijuana isn’t making that much of an impact (or any). The most easily tracked signs of ovulation include increased cervical mucus and an increase in body temperature. Many women also experience mid-cycle pain that’s indicative of ovulation (which is just fantastic since the standard, excruciating menstrual pain was getting boring).
Of course, there is a myriad of other things that can also affect ovulation. Alcohol can have a huge impact, even when consumed in moderation. Women attempting to conceive are generally advised to consume less than four drinks a week. Working near toxins also can interfere with fertility. Other toxins, such as those in plastic cups and hair dyes may also play a role, though the link is less concrete. Exercise, weight, level of stress, caffeine use, contraceptives, and thyroid can also play a role.