Back in March, we posted a blog entitled In Harm’s Way: The Harmful Effects of Drug Use While Pregnant, but didn’t touch on the harmful effects of drug use while trying to conceive. Drug use can drastically affect your fertility.
The journey that a single sperm takes up through the cervix and fallopian tubes towards a mature egg is unimaginably long and arduous. Each ejaculation can contain millions of sperm. Some of these sperm get off to a great start, while others can die from the acidity of vaginal fluid and certain lubricants, or get stuck in cervical mucus or cervical crypts. In the end only a few hundred sperm may successfully reach the egg, if that. As the sperm approaches the egg, it receives a signal to start swimming really hard. This is called hyperactivation.
Doctors suggest that both men and women who smoke marijuana make sperm less fertile. How? Men who smoke marijuana have very hyper sperm that reach hyperactivation long before they should. This causes the sperm to burn out too early, as the sperm can only maintain so much strength and swim for so long. Often the affected sperm become exhausted and never reach their destination, making it impossible for the egg to become fertilized. For a woman, the THC found in marijuana smoke is also found in her reproductive fluids, vagina, oviduct and uterus. Upon entering the cervix, the sperm absorbs the THC levels found in these fluids and, as mentioned above, its behaviour changes as a result. For women, smoking marijuana can also cause ovulation cycles to become sporadic and irregular, making it additionally difficult to conceive as they have a hard time pinpointing when they are most fertile.
Both men and women who use cocaine can suffer from fertility problems. Studies have suggested that cocaine use amongst men lowers sperm count. Long-term use can result in lowered sperm motility and abnormal sperm. For women, cocaine use can lead to fallopian tube abnormalities and can negatively effect or change a woman’s menstrual cycle. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cocaine can actually attach itself to sperm cells, and at the moment of conception cause damage to the fetus. Common problems associated with fetuses exposed to cocaine include premature birth and/or low birth weight.
Using heroin can cause men to suffer from erectile dysfunction and/or become completely impotent. Women who use heroin can experience several different fertility problems including menstrual cycle disturbances and cycle irregularities. On top of that, the sharing of needles can result in the contraction of various STDs and diseases that can both lead to infertility and/or cause harm to the fetus during conception, fetal development and birth.
Steroid use amongst men reduces the levels of hormones associated with healthy sperm production. It can also result in erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance-related problems. For women, steroid use can cause anovulation, which is when ovulation completely stops and ceases to exist entirely, making conception impossible.