Many drugs – both legal and illegal – can impact your sex life. Antidepressants and other SSRIs decrease libido and high-powered stimulants like methamphetamine enhance feelings of sexual arousal and sexual pleasure.
So, it’s no doubt that sex and drugs go hand-in-hand. However, what’s the effect of drug abuse on your body after you have sex? We understand how drugs impact the activity of sex, but do we know how drugs impact fertility and reproduction?
Fortunately, we do. Although some may not like the answer, science tells us that abusing substances like alcohol, stimulants, and opioids may lead to reproductive issues in both men and women. These side effects can result in prenatal health problems in pregnant women as well as lower sperm counts in men – ultimately impacting your ability to procreate.
In the following article, we’ll discuss how abusing drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine impacts female sexual reproduction. And for those wanting to have a baby anytime soon, we suggest you give it a read.
Those Happy Hour Drinks May Be at Fault For Your Irregular Menstrual Cycle
For decades, addiction research was focused on men and any gender differences were viewed as inconsequential. However, over the past 20 years that line of thinking has drastically shifted with more studies showing how women may be disproportionately affected by drug abuse than men.
The most prominent of these focused on alcohol and its effects on the female reproductive system – from puberty all the way to postmenapause.
For those who skipped out on that awkward conversation with your parents, puberty is an important process in which female reproductive organs begin to develop. And during this process, your body secretes hormones like the luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes the eggs inside your ovaries to mature and get released to the fallopian tube in a process called ovulation.
Unfortunately, substances like alcohol have been observed to disrupt this important developmental stage in women. Medical reports have tied alcohol consumption in minors to disruptions in the development of female reproductive organs like the uterus, fallopian tube, and cervix.
For instance, in a famous study by W.J. Bo and colleagues, alcohol-induced rats experienced delays in the vaginal opening process – a process that allows females to engage in intercourse and deliver babies during childbirth. And seeing as roughly 60% of teens experiment with alcohol by age 18, these adverse effects on puberty are quite appalling.
Other studies highlight alcohol’s ability to disrupt normal menstrual cycling in females. Alcoholic women, for instance, commonly suffer from irregular periods, infertility issues, and other reproductive disorders. But, don’t think that you have to drink absurd amounts of alcohol before you’re at risk of developing these conditions.
Female “social drinkers” often experience cycling disruptions, depressed estrogen levels, and temporary infertility. This is somewhat shocking as it bucks the previous theory suggesting that it takes liver damage or organ failure at the hands of chronic alcohol consumption to damage the reproductive system. In fact, the female reproductive system may be a lot more sensitive than we previously thought.
Part of this has to do with how alcohol consumption increases testosterone levels. Testosterone is a well-known suppressor of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, a system in the brain that aids in the secretion of reproductive hormones like estrogen in women. So any spikes in testosterone could prevent this complex from working properly and that could ultimately prevent you from conceiving a baby.
Women Who Smoke Marijuana Increase Their Risk of Developing Fertility Issues
To put it bluntly, marijuana use has been known to increase the risk of ovulatory infertility and other reproductive disorders in women. Although more research needs to be done in the area, the results of those that survived the peer-review process are quite interesting.
For instance, moderate-to-heavy cannabis users had a higher rate of anovulatory cycles. While the normal menstrual cycle lasts 4 weeks and consists of the (a) follicular phase, (b) ovulation, and (c) luteal phase, anovulatory cycles have varying lengths and often skip the ovulation stage. And without ovulation, there will be infertility.
This has to do with marijuana’s disruption of something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. When you smoke, THC molecules interact with the HPO axis and, ultimately, suppress the release of reproductive hormones like the luteinizing hormone (LH) and ovarian steroids like estradiol and progesterone.
And don’t think you’re off the hook if you just smoke a little. In fact, in one study, researchers observed that smoking only 1 gram of marijuana was sufficient enough to disrupt the menstrual cycle in humans. Others found marijuana guilty of early pregnancy termination.
That should show you just how sensitive the female reproductive system is.
And seeing as marijuana is one of the most commonly abused substances by women of childbearing age, this data shouldn’t be overlooked. Prevalence of marijuana use is only increasing in the U.S. and women need to be aware of its consequences on their ability to have a baby.
Animal Studies Shed Some Light Into How Cocaine Affects Reproductive Hormone Secretion
Unfortunately, the data for cocaine use and fertility in humans is mixed. Whereas some studies indicate cocaine is responsible for menstrual cycle disruptions, another showed that cocaine use decreased the time to conception and that the risk of conceiving actually increased relative to those who hadn’t used cocaine before. But this could be related to the fact that cocaine users often engage in risky sexual behavior.
More studies need to control for quantity, frequency, and recency of cocaine use in order to draw a more definite conclusion. However, until then, we can look at research done on rats and other animals.
For instance, one group of researchers injected rats with 1-20 mg/kg per day and analyzed the effects. There, they saw that cocaine disrupted the rats estrous cycle, which is the mammal equivalent of the menstrual cycle. And in some cases, the disruption was permanent.
Studies also showed that cocaine reduced reproductive hormones in rats and monkeys and that these species had difficulty ovulating in the following weeks. Whereas scientists argue how long these cocaine-induced side-effects last, they are helping us understand how cocaine interferes with your brain and, subsequently, the female reproductive system.
If You Want to Have a Healthy Pregnancy, Put The Drugs Down
It should be clear now that women who abuse alcohol and drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine roll the dice with their fertility. As seen, drugs and alcohol are directly related to infertility in women and can contribute to problems like delayed conception.
Drugs impact the chemical balance in the human body and the reproductive system is no exception to this rule. Women’s eggs can become damaged by substance abuse, and that by extension almost directly results in problems with childbearing or in the bearing of children with health problems.
Additionally, substance abuse increases the risk of contracting sexual infections. And alcohol impairs decision making and can lead to risky behavior and absence of mind. By engaging in these activities, you’ll leave yourself open and susceptible to diseases and infections. And it should be noted that STDs have a reputation for tinkering with a woman’s fertility.
But not positively.
Women who abuse drugs are also at an increased risk of developing different forms of cancer, with cancers that affect the reproductive system directly too. Diagnosis of a substance use disorder increases the risk of getting other infections. This includes the human papilloma virus (HPV) which has been linked to an increased risk to develop cancers like cervical cancer.
Now for the pregnant women who indulge, or should we say overindulge in alcohol and other substances, two people suffer the consequences of one person’s actions – 3 if she’s not a single mother.
Women who indulge in drugs and substance abuse are more likely to have a stillbirth. Even worse? Because drugs and alcohol can easily pass through the placenta to the fetus, some children can become dependent on the drugs their mother takes and go through withdrawal shortly after birth, this is common in infants exposed to opiates, caffeine, and benzodiazepines.
The list of potential conditions that a child could be susceptible to as a direct consequence of its mother’s drug and substance abuse is long.
On that list is an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), in tandem with an increased risk of birth defects and an increased risk of developmental disorders as the child grows.
Statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), obtained in 2013, state that almost 19% of women in their first trimester and 5% of women in their second trimesters reported drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. This suggests that there are a number of people inadvertently exposing their unborn children to unquantifiable danger in search of a thrill.
Research on this subject suggests that women are more susceptible to long-term effects of substance abuse than men are.
Differences in hormone production, weight and size influence the metabolism of substances in the body. In cases where the same measure of drugs or alcohol is ingested, women are more at risk than the men are.
If You’re Struggling with Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Give Us a Call Today
If you’re a woman struggling with a substance use disorder, give us a call. We provide inpatient rehab for women looking to get sober. And we do so on our gender-separate campus located just west of Fort Worth, Texas.
We are one of the few faith-based programs in the state, which means we actively incorporate your spirituality into the recovery process. So, in addition to your clinical and medical needs, we also take into account where you are in your relationship with God and if that needs revisiting.
By enrolling in our 45-day, 60-day, or 90-day program, you’ll get to partake in individual counseling, group therapy, equine therapy, and other recreational activities like swimming and ropes course. Additionally, we have alumni from all across the state of Texas and in surrounding areas like Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri so you’ll never be without resources when you discharge.
If you’d like to speak more to one of our Admissions Coordinators, give them a call on their confidential line at (817) 993-9733 or shoot us an email at email@example.com. We accept most major health insurances like Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), Aetna, Cigna, Ambetter, UnitedHealthcare, and others. Unfortunately, we do not accept Medicaid or Medicare at this time, but are happy to refer you to one of our partners.
So, if you’d like to overcome your addiction, reach out and join our recovery community! We’d love to have you.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.