Couples trying to conceive
may want to avoid using certain common sexual
lubricants, which a new study says can harm sperm and reduce the chances of
may harm sperm
vaginal lubricants harm sperm
"Lubricants available on the shelf at Target, Walmart
are not lubricants any couple should use if they are trying to have a
baby," said Kazim R Chohan, senior author of the study and director of
the Andrology Laboratory at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Centre
"Couples can try them for their sexual pleasure,"
Chohan told Reuters Health. "But if they are trying to have a baby, then
they are not going to work for them. "Two of five commercial products
Chohan investigated in the study are no longer available in stores. Johnson
& Johnson recalled K-Y Tingling Jelly and K-Y Sensitive Jelly from retail
outlets last year after finding the lubricants required additional data for US
Food and Drug Administration approval, according to a company statement.
Movement of sperm impaired
The health products giant nonetheless advised consumers that
they could continue to use already purchased tubes of the sexually suggestive
gels. Couples use gels to combat vaginal
dryness during intercourse. Men also use lubricants while masturbating for
semen collection at fertility clinics, and healthcare workers use the
lubricants to ease the insertion of medical devices, including those used
Some previous research suggests women trying to get pregnant
are more likely to suffer from vaginal dryness, Chohan and his colleagues note
in the journal Fertility and Sterility. But, they write, "Commercial
coital lubricants have been wrongly perceived to maintain fertility." The
researchers examined sperm motility, or movement, in test tubes in the presence
of five commercial gels and four common oils. The semen samples from 22 healthy
donors were examined over the course of an hour of exposure to each product.
All the commercial lubricants except Pre-Seed, a product
specifically formulated for couples trying to conceive, impaired the sperm's
overall movement and their ability to move forward.
In addition to Pre-Seed and the two recalled K-Y gels, the
study looked at K-Y Warming Jelly and Astroglide.
The study found no negative impact on sperm from exposure to
canola or baby oil. Sesame oil, however, was associated with an immediate,
drastic decline in sperm movement. And mustard oil had the opposite effect.
When researchers mixed mustard oil with semen, the sperm became hyperactive and
stayed that way for at least an hour.
Chohan's laboratory tested mustard oil because sex workers
in Bangladesh often use it as a vaginal lubricant as well as to try to kill
bacteria. The authors called the results "very interesting" and
suggested mustard oil should be studied further.
Past studies also have shown that over-the-counter
lubricants impeded the ability of sperm to swim during test-tube experiments. A
2012 study that tracked couples trying to conceive, however, reported no
difference in success rates between couples who used lubricants and those who
K-Y Jelly not recommended
Barry Behr, director of Stanford University Medical Centre’s
in-vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction laboratories, told Reuters
Health he could have predicted the current study's results on commercial
lubricants and natural oils. "We don't recommend K-Y Jelly. We recommend
baby oil or mineral oil – not scented," he said.
Behr and Chohan both
said physicians have long advised patients who want to conceive to steer clear
of commercial lubricants. But Dr Charles Coddington III, president elect of the
Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies and a Mayo Clinic professor of
obstetrics and gynaecology, told Reuters Health the study's findings surprised
him. "The bigger surprise to me is the Astroglide because I thought that
had been studied a little better," he said.
Astroglide was a good agent." Behr said he was surprised a few years back
when he learned that Astroglide, "a lubricant marketed to fertility practices,
had some spermicidal properties".
Stanford fertility doctors give patients who need lubricants
samples of mineral oil, which is inexpensive, nontoxic and readily available,
he said. "I can give you some mineral oil for five cents," Behr said.
"It would really be a shame that someone couldn't get pregnant because
they were using a spermicidal cream."
Lubricants: the basics
lubricants need to be tested
(Picture: Lubricating jelly from Shutterstock)