Does Cannabis Impact the Effectiveness of Birth Control?

July 26, 2022 08:30 am ET
Does Cannabis Impact the Effectiveness of Birth Control?

Smoking cigarettes or other devices containing nicotine can negatively interact with contraceptives (birth control pills) by increasing the risk of stroke, blood clots and heart attacks. While cannabis does not contain nicotine, some may wonder whether cannabis can also interact with or impact the effectiveness of birth control. Unfortunately, there is no simple response to whether cannabis does impact contraceptives since the plant is so complex and research on the matter is limited. Let’s have a look at what we currently know.

Healthline insists that “there’s no real research available to go on that looks at birth control and cannabis together,” though it is possible to draw some conclusions based on the available information on each. They explain that hormonal birth control pills can result in the aforementioned increased risks and that smoking cannabis may result in similar risks. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can increase blood pressure, increase heart rates, and potentially worsen those risks if hormonal birth control is being consumed as well. 

What Is Hormonal Birth Control?

Dr. Traci Johnson explains that birth control is a common way to prevent pregnancy. Hormonal birth control can come in several different forms such as, pill form, IUD, patch or implant. These forms contain either estrogen, progestin or a combination of both.

Hormones play a major role in the process of becoming pregnant by controlling the release of the egg from the ovary and preparing the body to accept the fertilized egg. Hormonal birth control contains man-made hormones. These man-made hormones inhibit the body’s ability to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulating, changing the cervical mucus, and changing the lining of the womb. 

The benefits of birth control include regulating periods, lessening cramps, lowering risks of certain cancers, clearing acne and some brands are approved to treat a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. When contraceptives are being used as directed, studies show that they are 99.9% effective. However, birth control pills may also come with some side effects including nausea, sore or swollen breasts, small amounts of blood (and spotting), lighter periods, mood changes, and even mild headaches. 

Does Cannabis Impact the Effectiveness of Birth Control?

Cannabis appears to be able to worsen the possible risks that hormonal birth control incurs. According to Healthline, this is due to the fact that there is a link between the chemicals in cannabis and higher risks of heart attack, heart failure and atrial fibrillation. However, research is needed to confirm this claim.

Considering the risks that come with contraceptives and these risks, it may seem logical that the combination of cannabis and birth control may present a greater risk to patients. However, these increased risks are not indicative of whether cannabis impacts the effectiveness of birth control. 

The Hormones and Cannabinoids

Additionally, a 2013 study found that cannabis can affect estrogen, a naturally produced hormone and one of the hormones found in contraceptives. The study explains that estrogen tends to increase sensitivity to THC and since most birth control options contain estrogen, the effects of consuming both can increase the effects of cannabis.

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This increased sensitivity may take positive or negative forms. For example, on the more positive end of the spectrum it may increase feelings of euphoria. On the flip side, patients may experience heightened feelings of anxiety.

Medical News Today builds upon this information by explaining that there is some limited evidence which indicates that cannabidiol (CBD) may have an impact on estrogen-based birth control, since it can have an impact on liver function much like some hormonal birth controls. They explain that “the liver metabolizes most medications, and CBD may affect some enzymes involved in this process.” On the other hand, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular may worsen some of the adverse side-effects associated with hormonal birth control since it can affect the nervous system, mood, perception, appetite and cognition.

While many people consume THC without adverse effects, the risks still remain. Medical News Today goes on to explain that both THC and birth control can increase blood pressure, which can then increase risk of heart-based conditions, particularly if the individual’s family or self has a history of heart problems or hypertension.

Is There a Potential for Interaction Between Birth Control and Medical Marijuana?

When it comes to methods of consumption, there is currently no research available to indicate whether those different methods have any kind of impact. However, Medical News Today pointed out that some methods of consumption may have “more potential for interaction.”

For example, they explain that the oral birth controls and edibles are both ingested, which increases their potential for interaction. Based on what we know, increased potential for interaction may mean worsening of the risks and side-effects.

Smoking comes with risks such as increased risk to cardiovascular health, which may have patients turning to edibles as an alternative consumption method. However, in this situation, edibles may be the more risky method of consumption considering the fact that edibles and oral contraceptives both go through the same process of digestion. 

Still, all of this is just logical speculation since there is not enough research to confirm these hypotheses.  If you want to continue consuming cannabis and using contraceptives, be aware that side effects are possible, and that the best means of consuming both would be to use a pair with the least potential for interaction. For example, pairing oral contraceptives with vaping cannabis, or an IUD and edibles.

According to current studies, we know that consuming cannabis in conjunction with contraceptives may result in heightened sensitivity to the effects of cannabis, or increased risks associated with either contraceptives or cannabis. While there is more research to support the claim that smoking cigarettes and taking oral contraceptives comes with some serious side effects, understanding that cannabis may have an impact on contraceptives is important when considering your options. 

Post Your Comments

Elizabeth Chiarelli says:

July 26, 2022 at 4:45 pm

did any of your research go over how cannabis effects the nonhormonal birth controls? because all i see is hormonal, and i don’t and can’t have that due to other medical reasons that i have that i am currently looking into cannabis for.

Lo says:

July 26, 2022 at 4:58 pm

The molecular components of cannabis shouldn’t have any impact on the effectiveness of non-hormonal contraception. HOWEVER, if you are using any personal lubricants that are infused with cannabis, ensure that they are safe to use with your preventatives and won’t compromise them. For instance, oil-based lube shouldn’t be used with latex.


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