Best Sperm Friendly Lubricant for Fertility

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Best Sperm Friendly Lubricant for Fertility

Several studies to date compare various sperm friendly, popular and natural lubricants. Although none cover the full range of lubricants available, the testing of some lubricants across multiple studies allows us to draw some conclusions.

In short, after evaluating several studies, the best sperm friendly lubricant for fertility is pure egg white (under laboratory conditions).

The main limitation with these studies however is their inherent design. Only changes in sperm motility (speed) was predominantly evaluated, after exposing sperm to various sperm friendly, popular and natural lubricants in laboratory experiments. Unfortunately this means the potential effect of these lubricants on sperm at a biological level is unknown.

Not surprisingly, this lack of data makes it difficult for Doctors to recommend a particular lubricant to couples trying to conceive other than to just use it sparingly.

The lubricants tested fall into 3 categories:

  • Popular lubricants
  • Sperm friendly lubricants
  • Natural lubricants

Disclaimer: Lubricant formulations may have changed since the original research was published. In these cases, it is likely that such lubricants would have a different effect on sperm motility.

Popular Lubricants

The popular lubricants tested in these studies were Durex, Vaginesil, Velastisa, K-Y Jelly and Astroglide.

Durex

Durex lubricants were tested in 2 studies. In one study Durex water-based varieties, ‘Feel’ and ‘Tingle’ significantly reduced sperm motility to less an a third in just 60 minutes of exposure (at 10% concentration) under laboratory conditions. In the other study, exposure to Durex lubricant had a hyperactive effect on sperm motility for the duration of the experiment (2 hours). These results show the significant impact different formulations from the same manufacturer has on sperm motility.

Vaginesil

Vaginesil was tested in only one study which included Durex, Velastisa and K-Y Jelly. This study reported Vaginesil was toxic to sperm motility at all concentrations (1%, 5% and 10%) within 30 minutes of exposure under laboratory conditions. This result meant Vaginesil performed the worst of all the lubricants tested in this study.

Velastisa

Velastisa was tested in only one study (as above) which included Durex, Vaginesil and K-Y Jelly. This study reported Velastisa was only toxic to sperm motility at 10% concentration after 2 hours of exposure under laboratory conditions. This result meant Velastisa outperformed K-Y Jelly and Vaginesil in this study.

K-Y Jelly

The popular K-Y Jelly was tested in 3 studies. In one study K-Y Jelly varieties ‘Sensitive’, ‘Warming’ and ‘Tingling’ all significantly reduced sperm motility by 45%, 55% and 80% respectively, within 5 minutes of exposure (at 10% concentration) under laboratory conditions. Of note, the lubricant with the least ingredients also performed the best.

Standard K-Y Jelly lubricant also showed similar effects on sperm motility in the other 2 studies. Despite different laboratory methods and analysis, sperm motility was significantly reduced after 1 hour of exposure to K-Y Jelly at 10% concentration. Overall, this result isn’t entirely surprising given K-Y Jelly is not marketed as ‘sperm-friendly.’

Astroglide

Standard Astroglide personal lubricant was tested in only one study featuring K-Y Jelly, Pre-Seed, synthetic and natural alternatives. In this study, Astroglide significantly reduced sperm motility by 22% within 5 minutes of exposure (at 10% concentration) under laboratory conditions. However this result was significantly better than the 3 K-Y Jelly varieties tested (Sensitive, Warming and Tingling).

Sperm Friendly Lubricants

The sperm-friendly lubricants tested in these studies were Pre-Seed, Yes Baby, FertileSafe Plus and Fertile Check.

Pre-Seed

Pre-Seed was tested in 2 studies with interesting results. In the earlier study, Pre-Seed had the least effect on sperm motility when compared to popular lubricants such as Astroglide and K-Y Jelly (Sensitive, Warming, Tingling) after 60 minutes of exposure. In the most recent study, Pre-Seed also had the least impact on sperm motility (forward progression) compared to other sperm-friendly lubricants such as Yes baby. However, comparing Pre-Seed to the control sample (non-exposed sperm) reveals even the most sperm-friendly lubricant has a negative impact on sperm motility after 2-4 hours at 100% concentration. The authors concluded ‘although Pre-Seed and Yes Baby are currently marketed as sperm-friendly, we failed to substantiate these claims.’

Yes Baby

Yes Baby was only tested in one study featuring Pre-Seed, Optilube and natural alternatives. In this study, Yes Baby reduced sperm motility more than Pre-Seed, or Optilube (non sperm-friendly) after 2-4 hours of exposure. In fact, it was the least sperm friendly lubricant according to this experiment which also included olive oil and egg white.

FertileSafe Plus

FertileSafe Plus was only tested in one study featuring Fertile Check, K-Y Jelly and Durex (Feel, Tingle). In this study, FertileSafe Plus had the least effect on sperm motility of all the lubricants tested after 1 and 2 hours of exposure. However even FertileSafe Plus is not entirely sperm friendly, with a 49% reduction in sperm progressive motility reported after just 1 hour of exposure (at 10% concentration) under laboratory conditions.

Fertile Check

Fertile Check was only tested in one study (as above) featuring FertileSafe Plus, K-Y Jelly and Durex (Feel, Tingle). In this study, Fertile Check was the 3rd best performing lubricant behind FertileSafe Plus and K-Y Jelly. However, like FertileSafe Plus, Fertile Check had a significantly negative impact on sperm progressive motility, with a 59% reduction reported after just 1 hour of exposure (at 10% concentration) under laboratory conditions.

Natural Lubricants

The natural lubricants tested in these studies were egg white, olive oil, mustard oil and saliva.

Egg White

Egg white was only evaluated in one study featuring Pre-Seed, Yes baby, Optilube and olive oil. In this study, egg white had the least impact of all lubricants tested on sperm motility after 2-4 hours at 100% concentration. In fact, at 24 hours a slightly higher percentage of sperm in the egg white samples were more motile than the control (unexposed) samples. Overall, egg white had a negligible impact on sperm motility and was recommended by the authors as ‘a viable and much cheaper alternative for couples requiring coital lubrication while trying to conceive’.

Olive Oil

Olive oil was also only evaluated in one study (as above) featuring Pre-Seed, Yes baby, Optilube and egg white. In this study, olive oil had a negative impact on sperm motility after 2-4 hours and 24 hours (at 100% concentration) similar to Pre-Seed. The authors concluded olive oil, like Pre-Seed, was not sperm-friendly according to their experiments and previous reports.

Mustard Oil

Mustard oil was only evaluated in one large study featuring Pre-Seed, Astroglide, K-Y Jelly (Sensitive, Warming, Tingling), synthetic and natural alternatives. In this study, mustard oil had the least negative impact on sperm motility, of all the lubricants tested, after 1 hour of exposure at 10% concentration. However, mustard oil did cause ‘persistent hyperactivation’ of sperm during this experiment which may or may not impact fertility as the authors noted.

Saliva

Saliva was also revaluated recently in a study featuring K-Y Jelly, Durex (Feel, Tingle), FertileSafe Plus and Fertile Check. In this study, saliva had the most detrimental impact on sperm motility, among all the lubricants tested. To be precise, after just 60 minutes (at 10% concentration) saliva caused a 78% reduction in the numbers of progressively motile sperm. This result was not completely unexpected, given earlier studies reported saliva being highly toxic to sperm.

Do Lubricants Affect Fertility

Do Lubricants Affect Fertility?

The use of lubricant during unprotected intercourse does not negatively impact fertility (i.e. fecundability) according to 2 studies involving 6763 fertile couples.

This finding is not surprising if you consider the related evidence. Normally sperm make there way into the fallopian tubes within 5 minutes of insemination which limits any potential exposure time. Secondly lubricant is likely to remain in the lower part of the vagina, and not the upper part, where sperm is deposited.

However in subfertile women and males, use of lubricant during intercourse is not recommended unless absolutely necessary for comfort. This is because sperm takes much longer (up to 1 hour) to reach the fallopian tubes in women with abnormalities (fibroids, polyps or endometriosis).

Studies also show that the small number of sperm found in the fallopian tubes is directly proportional to the initial number of sperm deposited during intercourse. This explains why successful embryo fertilisation is less likely in males with low sperm count (oligospermia) and or poor motility (asthenozoospermia).

A Tip From Fertility Science

Did you know a woman’s natural lubricant ‘cervical mucus’ is actually a sperm barrier before changing into sperm friendly lubricant during the fertile window. This transformation coincides with changing hormone levels and ovulation.

However not all women with regular cycles ovulate every cycle which means a lack of sperm friendly cervical mucus during the fertile window on the odd occasion.

This discomfort can cause women to feel the need for sperm friendly lubricant at the time, however it also suggests anovulation (no ovulation).

Spontaneous anovulation is generally caused by the body experiencing stress (of any sort) during that cycle leading to a temporary shut down of the body’s reproductive system. Once the stress disappears, ovulation will resume again in the following cycle together with sperm friendly cervical mucus.

On the contrary, some women lack sperm friendly cervical mucus more regularly (i.e. every other cycle or continuously). This suggests chronic anovulation caused by an underlying medical condition.

However this can only be confirmed with blood tests.

Hence it’s important for women who suspect regular anovulation to book a check up with their Doctor and make sure everything is normal before trying sperm friendly lubricant.

References

Markram J, et al. (2022). Sperm-friendly lubricant: Fact or fiction. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijgo.14136

Tomlinson J, et al. (2022). Sperm toxicity testing on lubricant gels: should we be recommending ‘fertility-friendly’ specialist products? https://doi.org/10.1080/14647273.2022.2053214

Soriano M J, et al. (2021). The use of vaginal lubricants and ultrasound gels can have deleterious effects on sperm function. https://doi.org/10.4103/jhrs.JHRS_128_18

McInerney K A, et al. (2018). Lubricant use during intercourse and time to pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.15218

Prior J C, et al. (2015). Ovulation Prevalence in Women with Spontaneous Normal-Length Menstrual Cycles – A Population-Based Cohort from HUNT3, Norway. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134473

Sandhu R S, et al. (2014). In vitro effects of coital lubricants and synthetic and natural oils on sperm motility. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.12.024

Steiner A Z, et al. (2012). Effect of Vaginal Lubricants on Natural Fertility. https://doi.org/10.1097/aog.0b013e31825b87ae

Agarwal A, et al. (2008). Effect of vaginal lubricants on sperm motility and chromatin integrity: a prospective comparative study. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.02.050

Suarez S S and Pacey A A, (2006). Sperm transport in the female reproductive tract. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmi047

Olmsted S S, et al. (2000). The rate at which human sperm are immobilized and killed by mild acidity. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0015-0282(99)00640-8

Anderson L, et al. (1998). The effects of coital lubricants on sperm motility in vitro. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/13.12.3351

Morales P, et al. (1993). Human cervical mucus: relationship between biochemical characteristics and ability to allow migration of spermatozoa. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.humrep.a137879

Tulandi T and McInnes R A, (1984). Vaginal lubricants: effect of glycerin and egg white on sperm motility and progression in vitro. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0015-0282(16)47558-8

Settlage D S, et al. (1973). Sperm Transport from the External Cervical Os to the Fallopian Tubes in Women: A Time and Quantitation Study. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0015-0282(16)39908-3

Rubenstein B B, et al. (1951). Sperm survival in women; motile sperm in fundus and tubes of surgical cases. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14802460/


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