Do you need to use fertility-friendly lubricant? What TTC Couples Need to Know
Lubes are indeed very popular and for a good reason. Apart from spicing things up in the bedroom, lubes can help women prevent vaginal discomfort during sexual intercourse. Therefore, it is not surprising that 66% of women in Australia say that they have used lube at some point in their lives.
According to a report, 42% of premenopausal women experience discomfort during sex, and the number jumps to almost 80% in women actively trying to conceive. Lubricants can help in such situations by easing the discomfort and making the activity more pleasurable.
In the following sections of this post, we will take a closer, scientific look at what it means to be categorized as sperm-friendly lube and answer some questions regarding their efficacy.
What is a fertility-friendly lube?
Let’s begin by answering this fundamental question: What in the world is a fertility-friendly lubricant?
For lube to receive the mark of being ‘fertility-friendly lubricant,’ it must comply with some of the criteria laid out by the TGA.
For starters, the manufacturer must prove by extensive testing that the lube has no detrimental effect on sperm, egg, or the fertilization process itself. The manufacturer has to perform both in-vitro tests (done with collected sperm outside the body) and in-vivo tests (done in mice and rats).
The lube also must be tested for endotoxins, the compounds released by dying cells, as these compounds can be detrimental to sperm even in low concentrations.
What is the difference between fertility-friendly lube and personal lubricant?
All types of lubes are made to be used on sensitive areas, and hence most manufacturers have some safety and side effects tests done on them. Some manufacturers also go a step ahead and test for condom compatibility.
The main difference between the fertility-friendly lubricant and personal lube is that the manufacturers of the latter did not provide the TGA with safety data. The data we are talking about here relates to the effect of the lube on sperm-egg and its impact on fertilization.
It is still possible for some of the lubes that are not categorized as fertility-friendly to have any effects on sperm, but there is no data to corroborate that. On the other hand, the lubes classified as fertility-friendly have undergone tests to prove that they don’t have any adverse effect on sperm or eggs.
On the flip side, some personal lubes might have ingredients known to hurt sperm or eggs. One of the preservatives used in many (if not all) personal lubes are the compounds called parabens, which are known to harm the sperm.
Fertility-friendly lubricant ingredients
Let’s get one thing very clear before we go ahead. There is no ingredient in the fertility-friendly lubes that makes them magically inert toward sperm, eggs, and fertilization. While all fertility-friendly lubes are safe for sperms, they might have quite different ingredients in their formula.
The following section will discuss some of the ingredients and characteristics to look for in a fertility-friendly lube. Some elements and properties might indicate that the lube is safe for the sperms, while others suggest good for your vaginal health.
Sperm-friendly lubricant with pH around 7:
While the pH of the vaginal fluids is around 4.0-4.5, it can change during sexual arousal. The pH of the vagina can increase to about 7.0 when you are aroused, and it matches the pH of the semen. Having a neutral pH is crucial for the survival of the sperm. If you are trying to get pregnant, you don’t want a lube that changes the pH of your vagina too much. You want to get into that neutral zone throughout the sexual intercourse to allow the sperm cells the best chance to fertilize the egg. If the pH falls into the acidic region, the sperm cells begin to die, and that’s not good if you are TTC.
Make sure to read the label on the lube; most manufacturers will advertise that their lube has a pH of around 7. If you are TTC, stay away from those that don’t explicitly state the pH on the packaging.
The osmolality of fluid indicates how many particles that fluid has per unit of water. Iso-osmotic solutions will have the same number of solute particles per unit of water molecules. If you are using a lube that has a different osmolality than your vagina, it might cause the cells to die, leading to infections. The normal osmolarity of your vagina is 270 mOsm/Kg, and you should look for a lube that is close to this range. Unfortunately, many of the personal lubes out there can have osmolality values 3-4 times higher than that of your vaginal tissue. It would be wise to stay away from such lubes.
You can check out the osmolality values of some of the common lubes on a resource published by the World Health Organization.
Sperm-friendly lubricant that’s Glycerin-free
Glycerin, or glycerol as it is often called, is a natural substance found in plants and animals. However, it has a very high value of osmolality that can lead to harmful effects, as we discussed before. Lubes containing glycerin can significantly reduce the motility of the sperm, making it harder for them to reach the egg to fertilize it. Another issue with glycerin is that it is broken down in the vagina into simple sugars such as glucose that can increase your chances of yeast infection.
What does science have to say about lubes & their effect on sperm?
There are many studies on the impact of lubricants on sperm motility and viability. It is important to note that lubes have a minimal effect on the egg as they are not supposed to reach the egg in your genital tract. Consequently, nearly all the research is focused on the impact of the lube on the sperm. Although there are many studies on the effects of various ingredients of traditional lubes on the market, no study directly compares how personal lubes and fertility-friendly lubes stack up against each other.
One of the best studies in that regard is a study conducted in Australia back in 2014. The researchers took sperm samples from 10 donors and tested 11 popular lubes on the market on the collected sperm. The scientists determined the impact on sperm health due to these lubes, including sperm motility and viability.
- Motility: The study concluded that the motility of the sperm was good in 8 out of the 11 lubes tested. That said, the best motility was observed with a lube that received TGA approval as fertility-friendly.
- Viability: Viability refers to the number of sperm cells alive after exposure to the lube. The scientists concluded that the highest viability (70-90%) observed in lube samples is fertility-friendly.
- DNA fragmentation: All lubes had comparable effects on the DNA fragmentation of the exposed sperm cells.
The authors concluded that the three lubes they tested were ‘sperm-friendly, including the one from Conceive Plus.
Buy cheapest Conceive Plus Sperm Friendly lube in Australia.
Fertility-friendly lubricant & real-world performances
The study we discussed is excellent, but there is one caveat. The study is done in-vitro, meaning outside the body. So, are these results consistent with real-world situations?
A research study conducted on 6400 women in North America and Denmark could shed more light on this situation. Women in the study were asked what lubes they use- fertility-friendly, pH balanced one or the oil and silicone-based one and the researchers followed them for 12 months. It found no statistical difference between pregnancy rates among women who were using fertility-friendly lube or regular lube. Another study conducted on 300 women found a similar result.
So, what to conclude then? Well, here is our takeaway from all these studies. Both these studies suggest that the kind of lube you use has little to no impact in real-world conditions. That said, it is very difficult to conclude anything this important based on just two studies. Furthermore, both studies lacked specific control groups and did not account for other factors affecting fertility.
Consequently, it would be very naïve to conclude anything based on the two studies alone. On the flip side, using a lube that is sperm friendly won’t hurt at all. Instead, it will offer much better protection to the sperm, and we would recommend going with the fertility-friendly lubes if you are TTC.
Difference between lab tests & real-world studies for Sperm-friendly lubricants?
Well, there can be many reasons for it. First and foremost, the lab tests were conducted on isolated sperm in a test tube outside the body, which is not how the sperm will naturally interact with the lube.
Secondly, the exposure time of the sperm and the lube in the lab tests was over 5 minutes. In real-world situations, the exposure time is way shorter than that.
It’s no wonder that the lab results are a bit amplified compared to real-world situations.
So, what’s the verdict on Fertility-friendly lubricants?
Fertility-friendly lubes undoubtedly can increase your chances of getting pregnant. However. Hence, we can say that until we know more about the impact of lubes on the conception rate, it is wiser to go with a fertility-friendly kind. When it comes to getting pregnant, you want to give your body the best chance that it can get to conceive, and using a fertility-friendly lube is the way to go!