How Do Illegal Drugs Affect Women’s Fertility?

We looked into which drugs will compromise your chances of conceiving, which drugs will screw up your pregnancy, and which ones are, all things considered, relatively safe. A few weeks ago, we ran a piece about how illegal drugs affect sperm. The diagnosis was pretty grim: Basically, all the drugs that are fun to take have an adverse effect on sperm quality, count, or mobility, meaning it's harder to shoot those little swimmers where they need to go. There was some good news, though: After a period of a few months or so, men regenerate their sperm, so abstaining from drugs for a little while allows their fertility to rebound.

But what about women? Fellas are sperm factories, but ladies are born with all the eggs they'll ever have. No second chances for us. Can drug use damage these eggs permanently? And once you conceive is it really that bad to use drugs during those super lame months of lugging a baby in your belly? These might seem like idiotic questions, but pregnant women get high a lot more than you'd expect: In one survey, nearly 5 percent of them admitted illicit drug use within the past 30 days, and in a drug screening of pregnant women in New Orleans, 19 percent of pregnant women tested positive for at least one naughty substance.

To find out what's bad and what's really bad to take when you're expecting, I spoke with Dr. Ricardo Yazigi, a fertility doctor at Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland; Dr. Gillian Lockwood, the medical director of the Midland Fertility Clinic in England; and Dr. Dimitrios Mastrogiannis, incoming director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago, whose forthcoming literature review on drug addiction and pregnancy addresses these topics extensively.

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