The Slippery Truth About Lubricants During Conception

Conception Friendly Lubricants
Lubrication is so important in life (Photo: Dewang Gupta, Unsplash)

Believe it or not, we know a lot about vaginal lubricants. Here are two statistics: 2 of 3 U.S. women use vaginal lubricants to help with dryness. And, among couples trying to conceive, 1 in 4 use lubricants. But aren’t lubricants bad for making babies?

Toxic Lubes

It’s quite clear that in the laboratory setting some lubricants can kill sperm, which is bad for fertility. Lubricants can also damage sperm DNA, also not a great thing for baby-making. Studies have led some infertility specialists to advise patients to avoid using common vaginal lubricants during times of conception.

Real World Lubes

But petri dishes are not the real world. In a study of actual humans trying to conceive and who used lubricants during intercourse, fertility was not impaired. Could this be because sperm land way up inside and never see the lubricants that remain nearer to the outside world? Or do sperm move so quickly into the cervix after being deposited that they never see the stuff? Third, could it be that lubricants improve fertility by enabling users to have more sex? Who knows? What is clear is that Petri dishes and real-world behavior are two entirely different worlds.

Fertility-Friendly Lubes

So, what’s a couple to do? Play it safe. Use known fertility-friendly lubricants. Funny, you’d think that hospital-based lubricants (Surgilube, KY Jelly) would be clean and gentle to sperm. But lo and behold, they are not as they contain antiseptics like iodine and soaps like chlorhexidine, which kill sperm in a heartbeat.
One of the best places to find conception-friendly lubricants is around the house. Some vegetable oils (i.e. canola and mustard) and egg whites have been shown to be sperm-friendly. And just around the corner in the bathroom, it appears that baby oil is also safe. But not all oils gel well with sperm: olive oil is not great choice for sperm. And saliva is a terrible lubricant, as are skin lotions. If you look at what’s offered to men for semen collection at most fertility centers (including mine), you’ll find unscented mineral oil is the preferred lubricant. There are also safe, non-spermacidal lubricants available on-line and in stores, but they cost you a lot more than if you scrounge around the house.
But if you can, it’s really best to avoid lubricants entirely. Although Woody Allen appropriately claims that he is “at two with nature,” you might be “at three with nature” before you know it by going all natural.