Infertility and Lubricant Use: Are They Related?
For couples who are trying to conceive, experiencing the pleasure of intercourse can often become secondary to the ultimate goal of the act itself; that is, getting pregnant. For this reason among others, many women experience vaginal dryness. As a result, millions of men and women each year turn to personal lubricants as a way to cope with this issue.
What they don’t realize, however, is that the use of most water-based lubricants has been associated with male infertility issues. That is because lubricants interfere with sperm health, decreasing motility, and contributing to low sperm count.
How do Personal Lubricants Affect Sperm Health?
One of the critical factors affecting sperm health is pH value. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the optimal pH value for sperm motility is between 7.0 and 8.5 – similar to the pH value of a woman’s cervical mucus during ovulation. The problem is that vaginal lubricants often contain pH values of less than 7 – and sometimes less than half of that – resulting in sperm death.
In fact, a study published in 1996 revealed that even the most popular brands of vaginal lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly, Astrogline, and Replens, inhibited sperm motility (that is, a sperm’s ability to move on its own) by between 60 and 100 percent after one hour. Interestingly, the results were not drastically different from the use of nonoxynol-9, a common spermicide found in certain contraceptive foams and jellies.
This and other ways in which lubricants can harm sperm have been well documented in medical literature. Despite this, however, many people – as well as physicians – remain confused on the issue. This is fuelled in part by misleading marketing material provided to physicians by lubricant manufacturers, claiming their product has no effect on sperm health – notwithstanding evidence to the contrary.
In addition, many people are still under the impression that a lubricant is safe as long as it is water-soluble and does not contain a spermicide. This is also a myth long in need of debunking, and it is not supported by any of the medical literature. In fact, most water-based lubricants contain glycerin, and propylene glycol, both of which negatively affect sperm health, resulting in permanent, irreversible damage, as well as a loss in motility.
Alternatives to Water-Based Personal Lubricants
Without a doubt, the best way to ensure sperm health and increase your chances of getting pregnant is to use natural, vaginally-produced lubricant. That may mean taking extra time prior to intercourse to stimulate the area so that it is sufficiently moist before penetration.
If, for whatever reason, this is not a realistic goal for you, there are other less harmful options, including:
- warm water
- canola oil
- mineral oil
- uncooked egg white
However, it is worth noting that the safety of these methods has yet to be confirmed through medical research.
Finally, there is a brand of personal lubricant designed specifically to aid in vaginal moisture without damaging the sperm, called “Pre-Seed.”
Currently, medical professionals are fighting to have the FDA mandate for labels to be placed on personal lubricants warning couples of their potentially damaging effect on sperm health.