Are Fertility-Friendly Lubricants Helpful?

So you’ve been trying to conceive and have been advised to have intercourse at least two to three times a week. Or have you been told to have intercourse every day during your fertile window? And if you didn’t conceive after the first month, chances are you’re having intercourse a little more frequently than usual. It is also possible that you have considered using vaginal lubricants.

Vaginal dryness is quite common among women trying to conceive. In fact, it is thought that intimate dryness may ensue as a result of stress associated with infertility, timed intercourse during fertile periods, and the effects of fertility drugs. As a result, some couples have resorted to using vaginal lubricants (commonly referred to as lubes) to make intercourse more comfortable. It is estimated that up to 25% of couples use lubricants. 

But hey, aren’t there reports about lubricants being hostile to sperm? True. Laboratory studies have shown that some over-the-counter lubricants such as Replens®, KY Jelly®, Astroglide®, and Replens® had a negative effect on the mobility of sperm. However, these experiments were performed under laboratory conditions and may not reflect the effect of lubricants on sperm motility in the female reproductive organ during intercourse. While one study did demonstrate that common over-the counter brand vaginal lubricants did not decrease the likelihood of conception, it might help to choose a fertility-friendly lubricant.

Study 1

Lubricant

Total Motility after 5 mins

Total Motility after 60 mins

Pre-seed®

Close to 80%

Close to 80%

Astroglide®

> 60%

> 50%

KY Sensitive®

> 40%

> 30%

KY Warming®

> 30%

> 30%

KY Tingling®

< 20%

< 20%

Canola Oil

> 70%

> 70%

Baby Oil

> 70%

> 70%

Sesame Oil

> 60%

> 60%

Mustard Oil

Close to 80%

Close to 80%

Key message:

Lubricants that impede sperm motility and probably hamper fertility include sesame oil and synthetic vaginal lubricants. Sperm-friendly lubricants that have no deleterious effect on sperm include Pre-seed® and canola, mustard oil, and baby oils.

Lubricant

Sperm Motility

 Sperm Vitality

Pre-seed®

> 80%

> 90%

Conceive Plus®

70–80%

> 70%

Yes®

< 60%

50–60%

Sylk™

31%

50–60%

SAGE® Culture Oil

> 80%

50–60%

Johnson's Baby Oil

> 80%

50–60%

Glycerol

70–80%

-

MaybeBaby®

70–80%

50–60%

Forelife™

47%

27%

Key message:

Among other commercial coital lubricants, Pre-seed® has the least adverse effect on sperm function. Conceive Plus® is a runner up in terms of sperm vitality and motility.

Lubricant

Sperm Motility

 DNA Damage

Pre-seed®

Progressive motility at 30 minutes of culture

Little damage but statistically non-significant.

Astroglide®

Dramatic decrease after 30 minutes of contact with semen sample

-

Replens®

Dramatic decrease after 30 minutes of contact with semen sample

-

Femglide®

Lesser decrease than Astroglide® and Replens®

≥ 10% on average

KY Jelly® 

-

≥ 10% on average

Key message:

Compared with other coital lubricants such as FemGlide®, Replens®, and Astroglide®, Pre-seed® does not cause a significant decline in sperm motility or quality.

Conclusion

Given that most laboratory studies show that some lubes might harm fertility and hamper fertility, it seems prudent for couples trying to conceive to choose a lubricant that has been demonstrated to not adversely affect sperm motility and vitality. After everything, it helps for a couple to do all they can to optimize sperm function and fertility, especially if they plan to get pregnant.

Resources

  1. Agarwal A, Deepinder F, Cocuzza M, Short RA, Evenson DP. Effect of vaginal lubricants on sperm motility and chromatin integrity: a prospective comparative study. Fertil Steril. 2008 Feb;89(2):375-9.
  2. Sandhu RS, Wong TH, Kling CA, Chohan KR. In vitro effects of coital lubricants and synthetic and natural oils on sperm motility. Fertil Steril. 2014 Apr;101(4):941-4. 
  3. Mowat A, Newton C, Boothroyd C, Demmers K, Fleming S. The effects of vaginal lubricants on sperm function: an in vitro analysis. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2014 Mar;31(3):333-9. 
Nick N
 

I'm Nick, a research-oriented fanatic, family man, and outdoors enthusiast who loves cars, boats, and fishing. I work at a research facility in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm keeping my day job for various reasons, and I write part-time because I feel the need to share my knowledge in terms that are accessible to the general public.

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