Personal Lubricant’s Impact On Conception


When it comes to trying to get pregnant, couples will try often during their ovulation window to conceive. Because of this, to make the experience more comfortable and more fun, many turn to personal lubricants. However, if there is a history of problems with conception or getting pregnant is not happening as quickly as anticipated, thoughts can turn to whether the lubricant being used is the culprit. And for some couples, a personal lubricant may be impacting the chances of conceiving.

The time that couples determine is right to start a family is an exciting one. Of course, because everyone wants to find out they are pregnant immediately when that does not happen, disappointment exists. And while it is normal to have to wait for a few cycles to get a positive pregnancy result, with 60 percent of couples conceiving after three cycles and 80 percent after six, according to the American Pregnancy Association, anything outside of this window may need to have intervention to help with conception. But, if personal lubricants are being used during this time, it is possible that an easy fix may be to discontinue their use given their properties can hinder the process of trying to conceive.

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Here is why your personal lubricant may be impacting your chances of conceiving.

Water-Based Lubricants

via Pexels/Pixabay

Water-based lubricants are some of the worst offenders given their effects on sperm mobility in just a matter of minutes. After all, if sperm is unable to swim to fertilize an egg, then conception will not happen.

According to Extend Fertility, regardless of the brand of water-based lubricant, multiple studies have found that there is an impact on the health and mobility of the sperm when used. This could be anything from decreased motility, death of the sperm, or even DNA damage to the sperm. And these results were found in some of the most popular over-the-counter personal lubricants available for purchase.

K-Y Jelly: Multiple studies have been conducted on the popular lubricant that all come to the same conclusion, which is the motility of the sperm is severely impacted with the use of this product.

According to Legacy, several studies dating back to the early nineties show that sperm movement is severely decreased when contact is made with K-Y Jelly. One, in particular, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that just after 15 minutes of being in contact with the lubricant, 80 percent of the sperm showed no signs of motility and the remaining sperm had just five percent motility. The decrease of motility for sperm was found for all versions of the K-Y Jelly products.

Astroglide: According to WebMD, Astroglide slows motility in sperm. So much so, that according to a 1996 study, after one hour, all the sperm that came into contact with the lubricant were no longer alive. Other studies still showed how motility decreased in shorter increments leading up to the demise of the sperm.

Silicone-Based Lubricants

While silicone-based lubricants did not degrade the sperm at the same rate that the water-based ones did, silicone-based lubricants still caused problems with sperm motility.

Replens: According to LubeLife, silicone-based personal lubricants can cause problems when it comes to sperm surviving to fertilize an egg. So much so, that according to a 2007 study, there was a 60 percent decrease in motility of sperm after 30 minutes. Other studies showed comparable results as well.

Oil-Based Lubricants

via Pexels/Skyler Ewing

Sperm overall fared better with oil-based lubricants than they did with silicone or water-based lubricants. While there were some that caused degradation, others still appeared to help sperm on their way to fertilization.

Olive oil: According to a 1998 study, after 15 minutes of coming into contact with olive oil, sperm motility was decreased by 50 percent. And after two hours, the motility was decreased by another 25 percent still.

Canola oil: According to a 2014 study, canola oil was found to decrease motility in sperm after being in contact for five minutes. After 30 minutes, the motility was stopped completely and the sperm were no longer considered viable.

Baby oil: One of the few oils that did not appear to have any effect on the motility of sperm was baby oil, according to the same study that tested the motility of sperm in olive oil. In fact, at all the time intervals that the baby oil was tested, there was no degradation of the sperm and they were no slower at the beginning of the experiment than they were at the end.

While oil-based lubricants allowed for the best chance of conception, it should be noted that they can also cause irritation of the skin, infection, or allergic reactions in some. As such, before trying, they should be skin tested to determine if any of these reactions occur to not incur discomfort while having sex.

Lubricants Effect On Sperm Outside Of Research Settings

It is clear that in research settings, there are negative effects on sperm when it comes to personal lubricants. However, according to Legacy, the consensus is that when used when trying to conceive, the products may be the culprit behind the inability to get pregnant. Unfortunately, there just are not enough studies conducted to date to state with certainty that they are the ultimate cause.

According to Modern Fertility, the only way to be certain that a personal lubricant is not impeding the ability to get pregnant is to use one that states it has a pH of 7.0 to most closely match the environment sperm will enter when trying to fertilize an egg.

Unfortunately, those that state they are “sperm-friendly” or “fertility-friendly” alone are not enough to ensure that there will not be any damage to sperm. Therefore, reading labels is the only way to know if a personal lubricant is safe to use when trying to conceive.

If having problems with conception, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional so that any underlying problems that exist can be addressed to aid with the ultimate goal of becoming pregnant.

Source: American Pregnancy Association, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Legacy, Extended Fertility, International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies, WebMD, Fertility and Sterility, LubeLife, Human Reproduction, Fertility and Sterility, Modern Fertility

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