The Effects of Cannabis on Female Reproductive Health Across the Life Course

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021 Aug;6(4):275-287. doi: 10.1089/can.2020.0065. Epub 2020 Dec 28.


Introduction: Cannabis is commonly used for its medicinal and therapeutic benefits and is also widely used as a recreational drug. Cannabis use has been increasing in Canada, including among Canadian women of reproductive age. Post-legalization, further increases in cannabis use are expected due to increased availability and lowered perceptions of harm. Although cannabinoids are well known for their effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems, endocannabinoid receptors have also been characterized throughout the female reproductive tract. Cannabinoids may affect many aspects of female reproductive health, including fertility, pregnancy outcomes with neonatal implications, and menopause. Purpose: To provide a comprehensive review of trends in cannabis use among women and review the impact of cannabis across the female reproductive lifespan. Methods: We searched PubMed and Cochrane Library databases using keywords and MeSH terms. Included studies reported the potential impact of cannabinoids on female fertility, pregnancy, transmission to breast milk, neonatal outcomes, and menopause. Results: The existing literature is primarily concentrated on the effect of cannabis use in pregnancy and breastfeeding, with little exploration of its impact on fertility and in later life. Studies are limited in number, with small sample sizes, and are hampered by methodological challenges related to confounding and other potential biases. Conclusions: There remain critical gaps in the literature about the potential risks of cannabis use, particularly in vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and their infants. Given the rise in the prevalence of cannabis use, new, robust investigations into the consequences of cannabis exposure on female reproductive health are needed.

Keywords: breastfeeding; cannabis; fertility; marijuana; menopause; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cannabis* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Change Events
  • Milk, Human
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Health