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Personal lubricants are liquids or gels that help with vaginal dryness or pain during sex by reducing friction. This article covers what you need to know about using lubrication when trying to conceive (TTC).

Lubricants and Trying to Conceive

When it comes to baby-making, it’s no surprise that timed intercourse can be stressful. In couples trying to conceive, vaginal dryness has been found to occur at a rate as much as twice as that of the general population. Sometimes getting your body to “perform” is too much pressure.

For people with endometriosis, dyspareunia, or infertility-related distress, or those taking the fertility-enhancing drug Clomid, lubrication during intercourse might be necessary.

The bottom line: if lubricant can make sex more comfortable for you, there is no good reason to go without.

Can lubricant affect fertility?

For pregnancy to occur, sperm needs to propel themselves through the cervix to meet an egg. Sperm motility, or its ability to move straight ahead quickly, is required for this to happen.

Some over-the-counter lubricants such as KY Jelly, Replens, and Astroglide have been found to impair how sperm move or even are toxic to sperm in lab testing. If sperm have impaired movement (or are dead), they likely aren't contributing to a pregnancy. But there's more to the story...

Do you need a "sperm-friendly" lube?

While standard lubricants have been shown to slow or even kill sperm in a lab setting, studies in 2012 and 2018 found that lubricant use didn't seem to reduce the chance of conceiving. This may be because sperm are exposed to lubrication in the lab for longer durations than is likely to occur in real life.

Both studies have limitations (for example, the 2012 study groups fertility-friendly lube and regular lubes in the same category). Both also say that more research is needed to confirm the findings. It's possible that “lube didn’t make a difference” might not truly be the full picture.

So is sperm-friendly lube a must when trying to conceive? Without a diagnosis of male-factor infertility, the data doesn’t suggest that it is critical, but it also lacks consensus. (We found doctors recommending no lube, any lube, and only sperm-friendly lube.) What we do know is that there are lubrications that don't harm sperm in a lab setting.

What does fertility lubricant do?

Fertility-friendly lubrication is a special category of lubricants (called PEB lubricants) required by the FDA to undergo testing to prove they won't impact fertilization or harm eggs, sperm, or embryos. Essentially, a fertility-friendly lube has proven not to harm conception.

Does fertility lubricant help you get pregnant?

No, not really. Theoretically, a sperm-friendly lubricant works by not make it more difficult to get pregnant because it doesn’t damage sperm. Fertile-quality cervical mucus that has an egg-while-like consistency is the real pregnancy helper.

Does using lube prevent pregnancy?

No! Commercial lube isn't birth control! It can't prevent pregnancy. See more on spermicides and contraceptive gels.

What You Should Know About Lube

The chemical ingredients in lube are called excipients. The combination of these excipients creates the sensations of a lube—slippery, tingly, moist, etc. These desired characteristics can come at the cost of a chemical makeup that can damage tissue and cells. There are two measurements to know with water-based lubricants (which all fertility-friendly lubes are): pH and osmolality.

Lube pH

pH is a measurement of a solution's acidity or alkalinity on a scale from 0 to 14. Less than 7.0 is acidic, or greater than 7.0 is alkaline. In the middle, 7.0 is neutral, just like water.

The pH of the healthy vagina is moderately acidic, with a range of pH 3.8–4.5 to help protect against bacterial growth. Acidity, however, can also kill alkaline-loving sperm that prefers the 7.2--8.2 pH of optimal semen. This is why fertile cervical mucus is essential to natural conception. It is more alkaline with a pH of around 7.0, helping to provide sperm safe passage. We know that pH matters because sperm can live up to 5 days in fertile mucus and die within hours in more acidic non-fertile mucus.

So what does this mean for fertility lubes?

A fertility lube's pH should not seriously alter vaginal pH or be toxic to sperm (so you don't want a low pH). There is no specific pH that the FDA requires a fertility lubricant to be, but any PEB-certified lubricant has a pH that has been proven not to harm sperm, eggs, or embryos. Many fertility-friendly lubes are neutral pH of around 7.0 to match optimal semen and fertile fluids.

Lube Osmolality

Think of osmolality as the ability to pull water from tissue and cells. A lubricant with high osmolality can pull moisture out of cells which can dehydrate and irritate vaginal tissue and harm sperm. The ideal state is isosmotic/isotonic, meaning the lube and the cells have the same hydration levels, and no water is exchanged.

So what does this mean for fertility lubes?

Most commercial lubricants often have high osmolalities (2000-6000 mOsm/kg). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that lubrication generally is not higher than 300 mOsm/kg but set 1200 mOsm/kg as an upper limit because of the lack of lower osmolality products.

For a fertility-friendly lube, Isotinicity requires a product to have a comparable concentration of the water molecules to vaginal secretions (260-290 mOsm/kg ), semen (289 to 351 mOsm/kg ), or fertile cervical mucus (250 to 422 mOsm/kg.) There is no specified osmolality for a PEB lubricant to meet, but a PEB-certified lubricant is considered to be within a safe range. Based on the products available, the acceptable range is likely around 260 mOsm/kg to 400 mOsm/kg.

Glycerine

Glycerine (glycol) is an ingredient used to attract and retain moisture found in some fertility lubes. Glycerine has a bad name in lubes because higher levels can significantly increase osmolality, which can dehydrate tissue and cause inflammation. With PEB fertility lubes, osmolality cannot be high (max of 400 mOsm/kg compared to the 2000-6000 mOsm/kg of some lubes). While only low levels can be found in fertility lubes, some people still choose to avoid the ingredient.

Parabens

Parabens include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Parabens are used as preservatives and are thought to weakly mimic estrogen and be potential endocrine disruptors. The long-term health risks of parabens aren’t completely known. Research has suggested that concentrations found in commercial lubricants can damage sperm in a clinical setting. Another study suggests that “chronic exposure” to propylparaben “may contribute” to reduced fertility, but additional studies are required. According to the FDA, the investigation is ongoing as to the safety. Because of the uncertainty, some people prefer to avoid parabens altogether.

Magnesium and Calcium Ions

Some fertility lubes contain magnesium and calcium ions. Magnesium and calcium are involved in sperm transport, and calcium plays a critical role in the process of fertilization. The inclusion of these ions is thought to help mimic natural fluids, which may increase the possibility of fertilization. Still, we can't find any research indicating that you will get pregnant faster.

List of Fertility-Friendly Lubes

How do you know which lubricants are actually fertility-friendly? Here is a list of all of the lubes on the market that the FDA has certified as sperm-friendly PEB lubricants.


Natalist The Lube

Natalist The Lube is a fertility-friendly lubricant that can be applied as needed, similar to other personal lubricants. There are no special instructions on how to use the product. It comes in 10 individual packets—perfect for traveling. The texture is gel-like, not sticky. If the pH looks low (we certainly thought so), this is because the lube has the ability to adapt its pH to support sperm motility without raising the pH of the vagina.

  • Price: Around $25
  • Approx. price per application: $2.50
  • pH: 3.8 - 4.2
  • Osmolality: 300-400 mOsm/kg
  • It does not contain: Glycerine or parabens
  • Includes: Magnesium, calcium ions



Ingredients: Water, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Benzoate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Lactic Acid


Pre-Seed Fertility Lubricant


Preseed Fertility Lube


Pre-seed is a fertility-friendly lube intended to be inserted directly into to vagina with an applicator before intercourse. The kit comes with a 40-gram tube and 9 non-reusable applicators. The texture is watery and thin.

  • Price: Around $21
  • Approx. price per application: $2.33
  • pH: 7.0 - 7.4
  • Osmolality: 260-370 mOsm/kg
  • How to use Pre-Seed: See the instructions.
  • Contains: Parabens



Ingredients: Purified Water, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Pluronic, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Carbomer, Methylparaben, Sodium Hydroxide, Arabinogalactan, Potassium


Good Clean Love

BioGenesis is a fertility lubricant from Good Clean Love. It is intended to be vaginally inserted before sex. The lube has a "buffering action" to adapt its pH to be both vagina and sperm-friendly. The kit comes with 2 reusable applicators and 12 applications. The texture is natural and not sticky.

  • Price: Around $21
  • Approx. price per application: $1.75
  • pH: 3.8 - 4.2
  • Osmolality: 300-400 mOsm/kg
  • It does not contain: Parabens or glycerine
  • Includes: Magnesium, calcium ions



Ingredients: Water Hydroxyethylcellulose Sodium Chloride Potassium Chloride Calcium Chloride Magnesium Chloride Potassium Benzoate Sodium Benzoate Sorbic Acid Lactic Acid


Babydance Fertility Lubricant


BabyDance Fertility Lubricant is intended to be inserted vaginally with an applicator before intercourse. The kit comes with a 40-gram tube and 10 non-reusable applicators.

  • Price: Around $21
  • Approx. price per application: $2.10
  • pH: 7
  • Osmolality: 300 mOsm/kg
  • How to use: See the instructions on how to use BabyDance.
  • Does not contain: Parabens or glycerine


Buy on Amazon


Ingredients: Purified water, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Hypromellose, Carbomer Homopolymer type B, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Xylose, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Salvia Sclarea


Conceive Plus

Conceive Plus is a fertility-friendly lubricant in a 75 mL multi-use tub that can be applied to the genitals as needed. You could likely get 15 applications, assuming 5 mL per usage. This product also comes in a form intended to be inserted into the vagina before intercourse. The texture is watery or runny.



  • Price: Around $23
  • Approx. price per 5 mL application: $1.53
  • pH: 7.0 - 7.6
  • Osmolality: 290-400 mOsm/kg
  • How to use Conceive Plus: See the instructional video.
  • Includes: Magnesium, calcium ions
  • Contains: Parabens, glycerol

Buy on Amazon


Ingredients: Deionized Water, Hypromellose, Sodium, Phosphate, Sodium dihydrogen Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium, Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride, Glycerol, Methylparaben.


Also on the fertility-friendly list, but we can't locate:

  • Jo Actively Trying Personal Lubricant
  • Astroglide TTC
  • Yes, Baby

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