"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 Center in Syracuse.
"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 U.S. Food
and Drug Administration approval, according to a company statement.
The health products giant nonetheless advised consumers that they
could continue to use already purchased tubes of the sexually
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 during
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.
[to top of second column]
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 did not (see Reuters Health story of July
10, 2012, here: www.reut.rs/1a2pDs8).
Barry Behr, director of Stanford University Medical Center'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 gynecology, told Reuters Health the study's findings
"The bigger surprise to me is the Astroglide because I thought that
had been studied a little better," he said. "I thought Astroglide
was a good agent."
Behr said he was surprised a few years back when he learned
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 5 cents," Behr said. "It
would really be a shame that someone couldn't get pregnant because
they were using a spermicidal cream."
Sterility, online Jan. 24, 2014.
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