Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the Female Reproductive System

Yale J Biol Med. 2016 Jun 27;89(2):175-91. eCollection 2016 Jun.

Abstract

Marijuana use among women is highly prevalent, but the societal conversation on marijuana rarely focuses on how marijuana affects female reproduction and endocrinology. This article reviews the current scientific literature regarding marijuana use and hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis regulation, ovarian hormone production, the menstrual cycle, and fertility. Evidence suggests that marijuana can reduce female fertility by disrupting hypothalamic release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), leading to reduced estrogen and progesterone production and anovulatory menstrual cycles. Tolerance to these effects has been shown in rhesus monkeys, but the effects of chronic marijuana use on human female reproduction are largely unknown. Marijuana-induced analgesia, drug reinforcement properties, tolerance, and dependence are influenced by ovarian hormones, with estrogen generally increasing and progesterone decreasing sensitivity to marijuana. Carefully controlled regulation of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is required for successful reproduction, and the exogenous cannabinoids in marijuana may disrupt the delicate balance of the ECS in the female reproductive system.

Keywords: HPO axis; endocannabinoid system; estrogen; female reproduction; fertility; marijuana; menstrual cycle; progesterone.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis / adverse effects
  • Cannabis / chemistry
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / drug effects
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Progesterone / metabolism

Substances

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Progesterone