Of course, it’s not about pregnancy. It’s not about child rearing, and it’s definitely not about marijuana use.
When examining the relationship between cannabis use and female fertility, the traditional Western paradigm of male-as-normative comes alive, wriggling its ugly phallus to-and-fro. It thrusts aside the unique chemistry and physiological workings of the female body, making so-called “female” reproductive studies not about women at all.
Historically, men have been the dominant subject of medical research. Until the late 20th century, most studies were conducted by men, for men, using male participants. Only since the feminist movement did women’s health care become a scientifically respected and viable field.
When it comes to cannabis and fertility, we see the same problem: women are relegated to secondary status. Popular websites like WebMD and the Fertility Specialist Medical Group of San Diego delve headlong into this construct when claiming marijuana compromises women’s’ fertility; but the actual evidence remains elusive.
Let’s break it down with a keen eye.
Testicles, sperm and white mice, oh my!
The bulk of the evidence that marijuana use affects pregnancy stems from research on the male reproductive operations: the testes and the sperm. Studies found that after several weeks of a high dose THC regimen (30 days at 20 cigarettes per day), sperm counts decreased. The punchline? These studies were executed in the 1970s, with no regard for the participants’ lifestyle or dietary habits, and above all, there were no female participants. (However, findings in lab animals were considered fair game as evidence.)
So, what must be bad for the gander must be bad for the goose, right?
But wait . . . there’s more. Both WebMD and The Fertility Specialist Medical Group of San Diego go on to blame the female body (huh?) for the dangers THC poses to sperm. When a woman ingests THC, it becomes present in the vaginal fluid, thus rendering the sperm impotent. These studies are peppered with lots of mays, mights and coulds – falling short of established, peer reviewed evidence.
And while science has established that smoking – and the carbon monoxide found therein – can be damaging to the oxygenation of developing fetus tissues, there has been no study determining if alternate THC ingestion (edibles, vapor, etc.) have any affect, whatsoever. It is wise to avoid smoking anything while pregnant, not just marijuana.
So what smells funny about all of this? Maybe it’s my stoner friend’s rather adorable, well developed, second child’s diaper (hmmm – no fertility issues there), or maybe it’s the age old narrative of poor research methodology excluding female subjects, thus yielding the even older male-as-normative standard in Western medicine.
Either way, the findings remain odious and inconclusive.
Photo Credit: Oksana Kuzmina