USC Fertility


Smart Shopping for Lubricants When Trying to Conceive

Up to one half of sexually active couples use some kind of vaginal lubricant during intercourse. It’s a common misconception that lubricants not containing spermicide are okay to use in couples that are trying to conceive. Unfortunately, there is now reason to believe that many of these lubricants have harmful effects on sperm, thus potentially reducing the chance of pregnancy.

What to Look For
The harmful effects of vaginal lubrication products are thought to be due to their unnatural chemical composition and pH. Though many of these products attempt to mimic the natural pH balance of the body, scientific studies show that they are not getting it quite right. Nearly all of the commonly used lubricants have been reported to decrease sperm movement and function.

In choosing a lubricant, it’s important to know which products are least likely to reduce the chance of conceiving. There are numerous published reports of the negative effects of K-Y Jelly. However, there is not much known about which product should be used instead.

Recently, a group of researchers directly compared the effects of four of the most commonly used over-the-counter vaginal lubricants on sperm movement. To do their study, they took sperm samples from healthy men who had all previously fathered pregnancies. They then exposed the sperm samples to equal amounts of the following products: FemGlide, PreSeed, Replens, and Astroglide. These researchers determined that, after 30 minutes of exposure, Replens and Astroglide caused dramatic reductions in the ability of the sperm to move. FemGlide also resulted in a decrease, but it was less striking. PreSeed was the only product in this study that did not cause a significant change in the sperm motility. Though these findings are interesting, more studies are needed to confirm the results.

Common Pitfalls
Some couples have used alternate forms of lubrication, including saliva, olive oil, vegetable oil, and glycerin in place of the over-the-counter products. Each of these methods has also been associated with sperm-damaging effects. If extra lubrication is needed or pain occurs during intercourse, it’s best to inform your doctor. Depending on the symptoms and situation, there may be a need for further testing to identify the cause—and over-the-counter lubrication may not be the appropriate solution.

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