SKIP AHEAD. . .
Smoking weed on birth control
Do or don’t? The truth is: we don’t know. Helpful, we know. As of right now, there isn’t enough research or studies that explore what happens when hormonal birth control and marijuana are used at the same time. Why? Because they are both grossly underresearched.
But here is what we do know.
There are many different kinds of hormonal birth control including shots, pills, patches, implants, and IUDs. And, even within the different types of birth control, the actual hormonal cocktail each type has also differs. Some are made of synthetic estrogen and progestin, others, progestin-only. And the ratio and amount of hormones also differs. So, yeah, there are a lot of options!
And while all forms of hormonal birth control directly impact your natural hormones to help prevent againt pregnancy, the effects of the synthetic hormones differ greatly from body to body. Some people stop bleeding all together, other people bleed more. Some people experience fatigue and depression, others feel like they can finally live their lives again.
What we are getting at here is that when it comes to hormonal birth control, there are just so. many. variables! No two approaches are completely the same and so, they shouldn’t be treated as such.
There are 17.4 million Americans (YES, that many!) who regularly indulge in weed use. And while the full medical benefits are really first being explored, it has been shown to help combat everything from pain, anxiety, and nausea to even stalling tumor growth, helping people sleep, combat eating disorders and even endometriosis (6).
Weed comes from the cannabis plant. And, there are different species of cannabis- Indica – the kind associated with more of a calming “body high”- and Sativa – the kind associated with providing a more heady and energizing time- are the two most well known. All species have different constitutents that make up the plants’ powerful properties. (The two constituents you are likely most familiar with are THC-the part that gets you high- and CBD-the part known to have calming, anti-anxiety effects.)
Just as all the different forms of hormonal birth controls have different ratios and types of synthetic hormones, there are hundreds and hundreds of cannabis strains within the different species that each have different ratios of THC and CBD as well as a whole bunch of differing other parts to the plant that we still don’t know too much about!
So maybe now you’re starting to get the picture of how it may be hard to figure out how weed and birth control interact with one another… there are so many factors and variables at play!
But here is what we were able to find…
Of course there are risks that come with hormonal birth control and cannabis use on their own. So, it is important to have an understanding of those risks in order to make an informed choice if using them is right for you. But we’ll keep our focus here on their interactions with one another, since, if you are reading this, you likely use one or both.
The most obvious risk to be concerned about is whether weed will change the effectiveness of your birth control. While the multiple variables discussed above make this a difficult conversation (What kind of birth control? How much estrogen is there? What kind of cannabis? How much THC? What else is in the plant? etc.)
A good place to start is to ask your care provider! Unfortunatley, there is still a lot of shame, fear and stigma around cannabis use, and if you live in a non-legal state, even risk, so we totally get it if you don’t feel comfortable sharing this info with your provider. But it’s important to remember that hormonal birth control is a form of medication. So gather as much information as you can. And, in the mean time, you can dip your toes in the convo by doing the “grapefruit test” (9).
The 411: grapefruit can mirror CBD in how it affects the metabolization taking place in our bodies (10). You can ask if grapefruit would affect any medications you’re taking and the answer may give you insight on if it’s safe to use weed. However, grapefruit and CBD are of course, not the same. So, it’s important to have a convo with a medical provider you trust.
We did find this interesting…
A couple of studies done by the Department of Hygienic Chemistry in Japan and the Department of Pharmacology in the Czech Republic suggests that the CBD compound found in marijuana can potentially act as an “enzyme inhibitor” (7). There are enzymes in our body, such as cytochrome P450 (CP450), that are responsible for metabolizing medication. If CBD manages to hinder this process, then the effectiveness of estrogen-based contraception may be at risk (for clarity’s sake, any “combination” birth control method contains estrogen. The methods in this category include (8):
- Combination birth control pills
- Birth control patch
The risks at stake range from minor spotting to blood clots to unplanned pregnancy. A little varied, we know.
Hopefully, more research is done on both topics!
Well the benefits are clear if you like consuming weed, and you are happy and comfortable with the hormonal birth control method you are currently using. You get to reap the benefits of both- pregancy prevention and potentially less stress, anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, nausea – whatever your weed helps you with.
If preventing pregnancy and consuming weed are both priorities to you, in addition to seeking info to ensure your safety in the interaction between the two, you can also explore non-hormonal birth control options and/or play around with your relationship to weed- how much, how often, other forms of relief.
At the end of the day, we don’t have too many research-backed answers. So it’s up to us to get as much info as we can, look at our own unique bodies and needs, the upsides and downsides to using hormonal birth control and weed as they relate to our unique bodies and cirumstances and make the choices that work best for each of us.
We’re here for you!
Written by: Alex Shea, a Momma Gaia lover, Sex-Ed advocate, and the author of I Don’t Know Yet.
Medically reviewed by: Danielle LeBlanc, BScN, RN
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
1.Staff, Published By Editorial. “CBD May Interfere With Hormonal Contraception.” CannabisMD. June 18, 2019. Accessed August 07, 2019. https://cannabismd.com/health/womens-health/cbd-may-interfere-with-hormonal-contraception/.
2. Parenthood, Planned. “Birth Control Methods & Options: Types of Birth Control.” Planned Parenthood. Accessed August 06, 2019. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control.
3. Sabatiuk, Liz. “5 Nerdy Things You Should Know About Birth Control.” Womenshealth.gov. May 06, 2019. Accessed August 07, 2019. https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/5-things-birth-control.
4. Dufton, Emily. “Marijuana and the Modern Lady.” The Atlantic. October 28, 2013. Accessed August 07, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/marijuana-and-the-modern-lady/280828/.
5. Solga, Megan. “CBD and Birth Control: What You Need to Know.” CannabisMD. July 31, 2019. Accessed August 13, 2019. https://cannabismd.com/health/womens-health/cbd-and-birth-control-what-you-need-to-know/.
6. Bridges, Nicola. “How CBD Can Support Women’s Health.” CannabisMD. July 31, 2019. Accessed August 13, 2019. https://cannabismd.com/health/womens-health/for-international-womens-day-how-cbd-can-support-womens-health/.
7. Yamaori, Satoshi, Juri Ebisawa, Yoshimi Okushima, Ikuo Yamamoto, and Kazuhito Watanabe. “Potent Inhibition of Human Cytochrome P450 3A Isoforms by Cannabidiol: Role of Phenolic Hydroxyl Groups in the Resorcinol Moiety.” Life Sciences. April 11, 2011. Accessed August 12, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21356216?dopt=Abstract.
8. Stacey, Dawn. “8 Hormonal Birth Control Options.” Verywell Health. June 24, 2019. Accessed August 13, 2019. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-hormonal-birth-control-3993888.
9. “CBD and Drug Interactions.” CBD School. August 05, 2019. Accessed August 13, 2019. https://www.cbdschool.com/cbd-and-drug-interactions/.
10. Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t.” Harvard Health Blog. Harvard University, August 27, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476.