Not all personal lubricants are made the same. Here’s why you should be paying attention to sperm-friendly tube o’ lube when you and your partner are trying to conceive.
Lubrication is vital for pieces of equipment to function smoothly, from simple devices like clocks and wristwatches to more complex machinery like cars and trucks. Keeping friction to a minimum ensures the longevity of the components within these gadgets and machines.
The articular cartilage in our body performs a similar role, ensuring that bones can glide over each other with as little friction as possible. The end result? Smooth and painless movements no matter the position you’re performing. Speaking about smooth-moving body parts, most couples in the world are no strangers to personal lubricants.
These tubes of lubricant (aka lube) provide immediate assistance whenever we are unable to produce enough natural lubrication for one reason or another. However, couples who are trying to conceive will do well to pay attention to the lubricant they’re using. Not every product out there is sperm-friendly, harming your chances of conceiving.
Here’s the full lowdown on sperm-friendly lubricants, but first…
How do lubricants affect my sperm?
Fortunately, and obviously, there is no issue with the natural lubricant produced by you and your partner’s bodies for exercise between the sheets. However, this does not extend to saliva, which hurts sperm motility and decreases your chances of conceiving . A good number of commercially-produced personal lubricants cause similar issues, with several products even damaging sperm.
For the most part, this boils down to certain ingredients that are used in the production of personal lubricants. The first and biggest culprit you should look out for in the ingredient list would be spermicide, also known as nonoxynol-9 or N9. Contrary to popular belief, spermicide doesn’t actually kill sperm, but prevents them from reaching the egg.
There are other ingredients that you should take note of while you’re looking for a suitable personal lubricant, but these will be covered later. The bottom line is that these ingredients damage your sperm and affect their motility, and are a big no-no if you and your partner are trying for a child.
What sets sperm-friendly lubricants apart, then?
Finding a sperm-friendly personal lubricant can be a huge headache. Remember, even saliva is out of the question because it negatively affects sperm motility. As for everyone’s favourite option, K-Y Jelly, it won’t do either. A 2019 study showed that it’s detrimental for sperm motility too , corroborating with other studies performed in the past.
In that case, what makes sperm-friendly lubricants so different? Firstly, their pH levels are generally neutral to match semen’s pH level and avoid being harmful to sperm. This contrasts with regular personal lubricants, which often have lower pH levels to ensure a healthy vaginal pH level of around 4 .
Secondly, the best sperm-friendly lubricants do not contain any harmful ingredients. Nonoxynol-9 is definitely out of the question, along with glycerin and benzocaine. Although glycerin helps to retain a lube’s moisture, it may contribute to yeast infections as it is a food source for bacteria .
Another chemical you’ll want to avoid is known as benzocaine. It is an anaesthetic and it is usually incorporated into lubes that are marketed for easing pain during sex . The issue with this ingredient is twofold. Firstly, if you or your partner experience pain while making love, it’s time to stop. If this happens frequently, consider using twoplus’ Applicator (an at-home intravaginal insemination device), which allows for easy and painless self-insemination.
Secondly, benzocaine may cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Although the vagina can clean itself efficiently, it is still a highly absorbent mucus membrane. You’ll want to avoid taking an unnecessary risk here.
What to take note of when purchasing sperm-friendly lubricants
Firstly, ensure that the lubricant has been approved by regulatory boards in its primary market or your country. For folks living in the U.S., this information can be easily found in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) database. You’re applying this stuff on highly-sensitive body parts after all, so it’s best to play it safe.
Secondly, scrutinise the lube’s ingredient list. If there are any red flags like nonoxynol-9, glycerin or benzocaine, it’s time to drop that lube from your cart. Additionally, you might want to avoid artificial flavours and aromas because of the chemicals that are used in their production. Both of your privates will thank you for keeping things as natural as possible.
The third thing you should be looking out for would be the lubricant’s pH level and osmolality. A pH level of around 7 ensures the survival of sperm in the vagina . The latter has to be at the right level as well, to avoid damaging the sperm and egg. The average level you should be looking at would be 300 mOsm/kg, which is almost identical to the vagina’s natural fluid .
Lastly, do go with a water-based lube, especially if you have sensitive skin or if your privates are prone to irritation. Avoid oil-based products as you’ll have a harder time trying to get the lubricant off.
What are some sperm-friendly lubricants available right now?
The FDA has currently approved 10 sperm-friendly lubricants — this is a good gauge to use when you and your partner are out shopping . There are 2 new products in System JO’s Actively Trying line of lubricants that received approval in early-February this year. Of which, 1 is unscented while the other sports a rose fragrance.
Another brand to keep an eye out for is Pre-Seed. Its original formulation received FDA approval a full 16 years ago and the product has since been updated and re-approved in 2020, now dubbed the Pre-Seed Fertility Lubricant . Take a look at their premarket notification summary documents and you’ll notice several striking similarities.
System JO Actively Trying Unfragranced 
Pre-Seed Fertility Lubricant 
No off odours
Human Sperm Survival Assay
≥ 80% of control motility at 24 hours after 30 minutes exposure to 10% of subject lubricant
≥ 80 of control motility at 24 hours after 30 minutes exposure to 10% of subject lubricant
Other notable findings
- Biocompatibility and antimicrobial-tested
- Biocompatibility and antimicrobial-tested
As mentioned earlier, these are key factors that you need to look out for when shopping for a sperm-friendly lubricant. System JO’s and Pre-Seed’s lubricants pass with flying colours. Alternatively, these 2 products serve as excellent points of comparison if they are unavailable in your country or if you are more comfortable with another brand.
Are there any alternatives to sperm-friendly lubricants?
It’s fairly hard to trump sperm-friendly lubricants, especially when they are approved by regulatory boards, especially since the criteria for sperm-friendly lubricants is stricter than regular lube. The lube needs to be safe for both parties and have no negative impact on sperm.
Fortunately, a study performed in 2014 showed that there are several natural and synthetic oils for couples trying to conceive . Canola, mustard, and baby oils did not impact sperm negatively, with sperm motility remaining high. Conversely, regular lubricants like K-Y Jelly and Astroglide caused a significant decline in total and progressive sperm motility.
On the other hand, do note that these alternatives aren’t perfect either. For instance, baby oil is greasy and hard to wash off (and out). This creates unnecessary stress and potential hygiene issues. This rings true for canola and mustard oil too, even though they will work in a pinch if you and your partner are feeling frisky all of a sudden.
Unfortunately, this issue is further compounded if you and your partner are using a device like twoplus’ Sperm Guide. As it’s made from 100% medical-grade silicone, you will need to be careful when selecting a lubricant to use (that’s if you’ve finished or misplaced the Conceive Plus Fertility Lubricant that comes with the package). Your hard work will be for naught if the Sperm Guide breaks down just because the wrong lube was chosen.
Sperm-friendly lubricants can be thought of as a fertility product for men and women alike, and are a vital part of your efforts when trying to conceive. The best ones have gone through rigorous testing and are perhaps the closest thing to what our bodies produce naturally. By mimicking the vagina’s fluid, they ensure that sperm has a smooth and safe passage to the cervix.
Having procreative sex on schedule can be difficult, especially when you’re tired or have other pressing matters at hand. A sperm-friendly lubricant on hand lowers the chances of abrasions for you and your partner, while ensuring swimmers get to where they need to be.
Admittedly, this is a product that might not end up contributing much to your TTC process, but every little bit helps. You know what they say about failing to prepare, so maybe it’s about time you and your partner relooked your personal lubricants.
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