Male Marijuana Use and… Miscarriage???

A man smoking joint

When we examine the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol, we usually think of the person who is using the substance. But the truth is, drug and alcohol use harms those close to the user too. Family members are affected, as are coworkers, friends, etc. When people use drugs, everyone around them suffers. That’s one of the many reasons why it is so crucial for addicts to get help.

When alcohol addicts drink and drive, they can hurt people on the road. When parents use drugs around their kids, they can impress upon their children that drug use is okay. When women use drugs while pregnant, they can harm their unborn children. And now, new data suggests that even when men use drugs before conceiving a child, their drug use can harm their unborn child’s viability.

The Story

For decades, we have known of the importance of women not using drugs or alcohol while pregnant. What mom puts in her body while pregnant, she puts in the body of her unborn fetus as well. As important as it is to eat well and to nourish a growing fetus, it is equally essential for pregnant mothers not to consume substances that could harm their unborn children. That includes staying away from alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc.

Perhaps for the first time, we are now learning that men who want to be fathers should also abstain from drugs and alcohol, particularly when trying to conceive (and in the months leading up to conception). From a moral, ethical, and responsible perspective, this makes perfect sense. Men and women who want to be good parents should not use drugs and alcohol.

But now we are learning that men who want to have healthy babies should not use drugs and alcohol from a biological standpoint as well. A new study, soon to be published by the Boston University School of Public Health and reported on in U.S. News, suggests that men who use marijuana while trying to conceive are more likely to conceive a fetus that miscarries, as opposed to prospective fathers who do not use marijuana at all.

According to the research, men who use marijuana at least once a week are twice as likely to create a pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage than men who don’t use pot at all. And while we have known for some time that marijuana use can lead to a lower sperm count and reduced sperm activity, the new data suggests that there may be further harm done to the sperm.

The study included a close examination of 1,400 couples in the U.S. and Canada who were trying to conceive. About eight percent of the men from those couples said they used marijuana at least once per week. About 82 percent said they didn’t use it at all.

About 19 percent of the 1,400 couples had a pregnancy which ended in a miscarriage. The researchers found that of the couples who lost an unborn child to miscarriage, there was a substantial prevalence of marijuana use on the part of the man (before conception).

The researchers were very clear on this being a matter of association. We cannot say that a man’s marijuana use before conception is the “direct and only” cause of miscarriage. But when the man used marijuana before conception, those couples were more likely to experience a miscarriage than when the man did not use marijuana.

Upset couple, loss of the child.

The researchers did account for other factors in prospective parents, such as smoking status, alcohol intake, caffeine intake, STIs, weight, sleep history, etc. However, it is nearly impossible to account for all influencing factors. It's possible that other factors affected miscarriage rates for the 1,400 couples. But even with that being said, it’s also pretty clear that male marijuana use had a significant effect.

Quoting a passage from U.S. News, “There are cannabinoid receptors within both sperm and male testicular tissue, indicating that the chemicals in pot do have some direct effect on male reproductive health.”

There are lots of factors that influence the health of an unborn child. Traditionally, expecting mothers have borne the lion’s share of responsibility in creating a healthy pregnancy. Now that’s changing, and attention is being put on prospective fathers. That is movement in the right direction. When trying to become parents, both partners should make commitments to the best health conditions possible.

Let's consider another point here. While the science is helpful, this is also a matter of common sense. To create a healthy child, wouldn’t it make sense for both parents to be as healthy as possible, starting with conception? The research helps because it points to a clear connection between male cannabis use and miscarriage. But from a common-sense standpoint, it just makes sense for both prospective parents to be as healthy as possible when trying to conceive.

Creating Healthy Conditions for Child Rearing

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about new research which suggests that a man’s alcohol consumption can harm conception and pregnancy. That research suggested that a prospective father’s drinking habits can lead to the conception and birth of a child with congenital heart disease.

Perhaps for the first time, we are starting to see that couples who want to have healthy babies need to implement strong health standards on themselves even before conception. Would-be moms and dads need to cease alcohol consumption and marijuana use before even trying to have a child.

The goal here is to create the healthiest situation possible in which to create a child. Isn’t that what parents want? Isn’t a healthy and strong child worth both prospective parents abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs?

We all want to raise healthy and happy children. And for us as parents, that means committing to a healthy lifestyle ourselves. The benefit of doing so is not only prime child-rearing conditions, but the advantage is that we ourselves are then healthier as well. Everyone wins when we make such a commitment.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.