Lube is an essential element of many couples' sexual toolkit, and for good reason.
It can help sex feel even better and reduce the risk of irritation or infection caused by friction.
Most of us are aware that spermicide and lube are two different substances, but did you know the specific type of lube you use can impact sperm mobility?
Yep, navigating the world of lube can be complicated when trying to conceive, especially if you have any underlying health conditions that impact your ability to get pregnant.
The dilemma is compounded by the fact that couples who are trying to conceive have been found to experience vaginal dryness at a rate of up to double the average.
So what's a girl (or guy or non-binary pal) to do?
Never fear, there are fertility-friendly lubricant options on the market.
This article will explain the dos and don'ts of lube and fertility, so stick around for all the info you need to make the right choice for your body and your fertility goals.
How does lube affect sperm?
The way a specific lube interacts with your body (and your partner's) will depend on its ingredients.
In scientific studies, this is often measured as sperm motility, which refers to whether the lube can interfere with sperms' ability to move independently and ultimately affect fertility.
Trying to conceive (TTC), fertility or sperm-friendly lubricants will be clearly labeled as such, but there are others that are safe to use when trying to get pregnant. Some are more fertility friendly than others, so we'll get into the details of each below.
It's in the name: you definitely should avoid spermicidal lube if you're trying to get pregnant because it can impair sperm function.
According to Planned Parenthood, it is around 72 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy and is designed to harm sperm.
Watch out for ingredients like nonoxynol-9, octoxynol-9, benzalkonium chloride and menfegol, all of which are used to decrease sperm's ability to move and ultimately to fertilise the egg.
Spermicidal lube is the only lubricant on this list that has been proven to actually decrease the number of couples that conceive in scientific studies.
Silicone-based lube is designed for long-lasting pleasure, but shouldn't be used with silicone toys or condoms due to the fact it can degrade their surface. Plus, it can be a little messy, often leaving stains and residue on sheets and bodies.
In terms of falling pregnant, silicone has been found to have an inhibiting effect on sperm movement in laboratory tests.
However, in practice, two studies have found that silicone lubricant use was not associated with any reduction in the couples' actual fertility.
Water-based lube is also popular as it can be used with silicone toys and does not stain sheets.
It generally leaves less residue than silicone-based lube and washes off easily. (This means silicone-based lube a better option for a shower sesh.)
Fertility-wise, water-based lube had similar inhibiting effects on sperm motility in the lab, but again was not shown to reduce the likelihood of falling pregnant for real-life couples.
TTC-approved lube is marketed as the gold standard of sperm-friendly lubricants, although there's no evidence it will practically improve your chances of getting pregnant.
However, these lubes can make the claim that they do not decrease sperm motility, unlike some more well known products.
All fertility-friendly lubes are water-based, often using hydroxyethlcellulose as a main ingredient as it most closely resembles the vagina's natural fertile cervical mucus.
Kin's Fertility Lube has been uniquely formulated to mimic the cervical environment, allowing sperm to not just survive but thrive.
Free of spermicide and parabens, Kin's Fertility Lube is a great option if you're TTC as it doesn't contain any ingredients like petroleum, glycerine and silicone that could inhibit the sperm's ability to move through the vaginal canal.
Why can lube help when trying to conceive?
In an ideal world, you decide you want to have a baby, you do the deed and you fall pregnant. But as we all know, in real life, creating a whole other human can take a lot more effort.
If sex has become a little trickier as you try for a baby, you're not alone and there is support available.
Whether you're feeling stressed out by the fertility process or taking medication that affects your sex drive, vaginal dryness can be a serious issue.
This is common and normal, often making sperm-friendly lube even more necessary for couples trying to conceive.
Luckily, the end goal of fertility and egg fertilisation doesn't have to take away from the pleasure of sex or the need to look after your own health. Cue: personal lubricants.
Does fertility lube work?
The discrepancy between laboratory studies and actual rates of conception using your average silicone or water-based lubricant could be due to the fact that sperm are generally exposed to the lube for a shorter time during sex than the longer time periods studied in the lab.
For this reason, the negative effects of some vaginal lubricants on mobility don't seem to translate into the bedroom.
But for couples already facing fertility challenges, fertility-friendly lubricants can be worth a try when aiming for a pregnancy.
These sperm-friendly lubricants for fertility are designed to match your vaginal pH and cervical mucus, allowing for optimal sperm activity.
If you're looking for a lubricant for conception, fertility friendly lubes are a great place to start. Using a lab-tested sperm-friendly lubricant is not proven to help you get pregnant, but it can't hurt!
What lube does not affect sperm?
Along with specially designed fertility friendly-lubricants, like Kin's Fertility Lube, your favourite water-based and silicone-based lubes are unlikely to affect sperm survival during baby-making sex.
Most lubricants on the market do not interfere with your health or potential pregnancy, and are definitely worth using if they increase your levels of pleasure and comfort during intercourse.
Normal's Water-Based Lube, for example, is a perfect all-rounder.
It can be used when trying to conceive, with sex toys, and even for a bit of solo pleasure. Plus, its gentle formula is paraben free and it has no off-putting scent or taste.
For a longer-lasting encounter, try Normal's Silicon-Based Lubricant. Also paraben free and safe for couples trying to get pregnant, it can be used in the bath or shower but doesn't leave sticky residue.
Lube substitutes to avoid
If you've been known to reach for a less-conventional lubricant in a pinch, you may want to reconsider when you're trying to keep those sperm cells healthy.
Some common lubricant substitutes can present an infection risk or affect sperm health.
Check out our list of natural oils and other lube substitutes to avoid below as they can decrease sperm quality.
Natural oils such as canola oil may seem like a safe substitute for vaginal lubricants, but they do carry some risks.
Although canola oil does not impede sperm function during intercourse, it is known to clog pores.
Clogged pores in your vagina can lead to something even worse than pimples: A yeast infection. Steer clear if at all possible.
Like canola oil, sesame oil is technically sperm friendly, but its comedogenic properties make it a less-than-optimal choice for baby-making sex.
It should not be used with any silicone products and can cause infection if used as a fertility lubricant.
Olive oil falls into the same category as canola and sesame in regards to natural oils as lubricants: Safe for sperm, but not for your vagina or with any silicone toys.
We recommend giving it a miss for your own health, even if you are trying to get pregnant.
Surprisingly, baby oil is also considered sperm friendly.
Unfortunately, it has similar downsides to other oils, including an increased risk of infection, damaging sex toys and latex condoms, and being difficult to wash off skin and sheets.
Saliva may be one of the most natural lubricants, but it is also rumoured to kill sperm. In fact, there are some studies that show saliva decreases sperm motility in couples struggling with fertility.
While that's not true for all couples, if you want to play it safe while trying to get pregnant, we recommend reaching for a sperm-friendly lubricant instead.
Whichever lube you do use, communication with your partner is key when trying to conceive.
Regular discussions about fertility are important, as is keeping each other in the loop about what's working and what isn't in the bedroom.
As always, we recommend checking in with your doctor if you have any concerns when it comes to fertility lubricants or any other aspect of your baby-making journey.
Stay silky, friends!