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Why Would-Be Dads Should Reconsider Marijuana Use In Quarantine

Sex and marijuana use are on the rise in lockdown. And according to science, the two don’t always mix.

Couples cohabitating under quarantine will produce one of two results: babies or divorce. So the joke goes on social media. Divorce rates have trended downward since the Great Recession in 2008. But experts and lawyers expect a looming divorce surge to occur once life returns to normal after the coronavirus pandemic. One lawyer even called it, “Divorce-apalooza.”

So will there be a baby-palooza, too? Probably not. Scientists propose a baby blip, not a baby boom, for couples living in quarantine. Disasters don’t usually cause a bump in fertility rates and Americans were already experiencing historic lows in birth rates.

Plus, marijuana use reached an all-time high amid the coronavirus pandemic. Americans have turned to cannabis to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and to achieve a better night’s sleep. One survey found parents with kids at home under quarantine are more likely to use marijuana than single adults. Why does that matter for couples breaking the odds and conceiving under quarantine? Because for any dad or would-be dad using cannabis to manage mental health right now should know marijuana and sperm don’t mix well together.

Most science indicates that smoking weed lowers sperm count and concentration, though normal fertility levels in men can return if they take a marijuana break. But a Denmark study in Scientific Reports showed that marijuana and sperm might have a deeper relationship than previously imagined.

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In ways both good and bad, it appears male sexual organs have more signs of the endocannabinoid system and can recognize the presence of cannabinoids. That means “humans sperm-production hardware is attuned to interacting with cannabinoid chemicals,” Inverse writes of the study, which could explain why sperm changes following marijuana consumption.

“In conclusion, the specific and differential expression patterns suggest a direct involvement of the [endocannabinoid system] in the physiology of the human testis,” the researchers wrote.

Photo by Tina Bo via Unsplash

That still doesn’t completely answer how cannabis affects sperm beyond count and concentration. Another recent study published in the Epigenetics journal might provide an answer. Focusing on possible mutations sperm undergoes following marijuana exposure, scientists from Duke University found changes in a gene strongly related to autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.

“We were surprised to find this significant association between marijuana use in men and changes in this gene that is implicated in autism,” study co-author Rose Schrott told Fatherly.  

After testing 24 men — 12 cannabis users, 12 non-users — combined with rat studies, the scientists identified significant hypomethylation in Discs-Large Associated Protein 2, or DLGAP2, from those with marijuana in their systems.

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“Differential methylation of DLGAP2 is reported in the brain of individuals with autism, and has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in rats,” the study’s authors wrote. “Knockout of DLGAP2 in mice results in abnormal social behavior, increased aggressive behavior, and learning deficits.”

Marijuana-using men everywhere trying to have a child shouldn’t immediately start freaking out, researchers cautioned. This is the first findings of its kind, meaning these results need to be duplicated before linking marijuana smoking and autism in offspring. Scientists behind the study still aren’t sure what their findings reveal.

“We are only able to report this association present in the sperm of men who use marijuana. So what this means for children, we don’t know,” Schrott added.

In other words, combining marijuana and babymaking under quarantine is not advisable at the moment.

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