• Gulf Coast Acupuncture and Fertility

How does lube affect fertility?

It’s probably one of the last things we might even consider affecting fertility, but studies have shown that approximately 65% of American women report using personal lubricants during sex. Studies have found that most lubes and even saliva slow down, stop, or even kill sperm. That should at least be on the label since it’s such a small thing but could have a significant impact! Are you using lube, and if so, is it sperm friendly? Is there a sperm-friendly lube? What are you suppose to use when you’re trying to conceive? Let’s check out a few!

Most lube fits into one of four categories: oil-based, water-based, silicone-based, or a “hybrid” and, of course, have so many ingredients.

Oil-based lubes (such as baby oil, coconut oil, or massage oil) are long-lasting, but can degrade condoms and are more likely to irritate the vagina.

Water-based lubes (such as Astro Glide, KY, etc.) can be used with condoms or sex toys, but can evaporate more quickly.

Silicone-based lubes (such as Uberlube) last longer than water-based and are condom-safe, but will deteriorate silicone sex toys.

There are sure ingredients everyone should avoid in their lube: Glycerin, flavoring, any kind of sugar, petroleum jelly, preservatives like paraben, propylene glycol, benzocaine (a “numbing” ingredient in some lubes), and antibacterial ingredients like chlorhexidine gluconate are all potentially irritating or toxic ingredients.

But if you’re trying to conceive, there are additional ingredients to look out for: silicone and—obviously—spermicide, sometimes listed as nonoxynol-9 or N-9.

Why use it at all!? Well, it makes baby-making a little more fun. Lube decreases friction and improves the sexual experience for both partners.

Often couples who are actively trying to conceive are having sex on a specific timetable, typically every day or every other day during their fertile window (the five days prior and one day following ovulation). Having sex on a schedule plus any anxiety or stress around conception may mean either partner isn’t as relaxed or aroused as they’d hope to be during intercourse.

Studies found that 88% of couples stated that, while trying to conceive, vaginal dryness negatively affected intimacy sometimes, often, or constantly. Additionally, 76% reported that vaginal dryness episodes increased while trying to get pregnant. Lube can help make sex more comfortable,

Additional considerations come into play for couples using Clomid (clomiphene citrate), a fertility medication. Clomid works by blocking estrogen production, and estrogen is key to vaginal moisture women taking Clomid may experience vaginal dryness, even if that’s never been an issue for them before. Lubricant can be beneficial for patients using Clomid for timed intercourse.

Laboratory studies show that most commercially available or commonly used lubricants have a significant negative impact on sperm’s motility, AKA the ability of the sperm to “swim” toward the egg. Some even suggest that lube has a “toxic” effect on sperm. Here’s a summary of the research available on lube and sperm fertility.

K-Y Jelly (water-based) In multiple studies, K-Y Jelly, including the “Sensitive,” “Warming,” and “Tingling” product lines significantly decreased sperm motility. In one study, it also resulted in an increased number of sperm with DNA damage. Anderson et al, 1998; Agarwal et al, 2007; Kutteh et al, 1996; Sandhu et al, 2014; Mackenzie et al, 2019; Mowat et al, 2014

Astroglide (water-based) In multiple studies, Astroglide caused dramatic decreases in sperm motility with nearly no movement after 30 minutes of contact with the semen sample. In another, sperm exposed to Astroglide were nonmotile and nonviable (essentially, dead) after 60 minutes. Agarwal et al, 2007; Kutteh et al, 1996; Sandhu et al, 2014

Replens (silicone-based) In one study, Replens resulted in a 60% decrease in sperm motility after 30 minutes of contact with semen. In another, Replens had a toxic effect on sperm, rendering them nonviable after 60 minutes of contact. Agarwal et al, 2007; Kutteh et al, 1996

FemGlide (water-based) FemGlide caused a significant decrease in sperm motility and an increase in the percentage of sperm with DNA damage. Agarwal et al., 2007

Aquagel (water-based) Aquagel appears to reduce sperm motility by about half after 10 minutes of exposure to semen. Mackenzie et al., 2019

Sylk (water-based) In one study, Sylk significantly reduced the number of live sperm in the semen sample, as well as sperm motility. Mowat et al., 2014

Baby oil In one study, baby oil had no significant impact on sperm motility. It had a minimal effect on sperm motility in several others, but did affect the percentage of live sperm in the sample. Anderson et al, 1998; Sandhu et al, 2014; Mowat et al, 2014

Olive oil significantly reduced sperm motility. In one study, 15 minutes of exposure to olive oil reduced sperm motility by 42%. Anderson et al., 1998

Canola oil In one study, canola oil had no detrimental effects on sperm. In another, it reduced sperm motility slightly (by about 6%) Kutteh et al., 1996; Sandhu et al., 2014

Sesame oil significantly impacted sperm motility, reducing it by about 30% after 5 minutes of exposure. Sandhu et al., 2014

Saliva In one study, saliva caused the most significant reduction in sperm motility; the percentage of motile sperm reduced by 50% in the first 5 minutes of exposure, and movement reduced to near zero within 15 minutes.

On a positive note, there are several sperm-friendly lubes available! The most popular lubes with many excellent testimonials are Pre Seed and Conceive Plus with the applicator (it seems like the applicator option is the most popular). They both seem to have the same ingredients and are formulated to match the pH and concentration of “fertile fluids” such as cervical fluid.

One difference is Conceive Plus. has added beneficial nutrients like magnesium and calcium to their formula. I am a firm believer in all things magnesium. We are often low on this valuable mineral, and it can affect many functions in our bodies. My choice would be the Conceive Plus with an applicator for that reason. If you’re thinking about starting a family or adding to it but are experiencing difficulty, we are here to help!

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