Fertility Blog

Safe Lubrication

It has been known for quite some time that many lubricants used to facilitate intercourse or as an aid in masturbation for sperm collection may actually be toxic to sperm. A new study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2005 conference confirmed this through a more rigorous study analyzing sperm motility and DNA damage after exposure to four brands: FemGlide, Replens, Astroglide and Pre-Seed. Although no single product left the sperm completely free of damage, the research identified the Pre-Seed product as causing considerably less motility and DNA damage than the others. The company that distributes this product claims that Pre-Seed is of the same osmolarity (salt density) and pH as seminal fluid. They further claim that it contains a plant sugar that acts as an anti-oxidant. The study was jointly conducted without funding from any of the lubricant companies by researchers at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio; South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota; and Washington State University in Spokane, Washington. In the first experiment, sperm from 13 different donors was analyzed for progressive motility after 30 minutes of exposure to each lubricant while compared to a control batch from the same sperm donors with no lubricant exposure. The results showed that sperm activity ranged from a high of 66 percent in untreated sperm, followed by 64 percent with sperm treated with Pre-Seed, followed by 51 percent with FemGlide and 25 percent with Replens. The lowest reported sperm motility was 2 percent in a solution containing Astroglide. In a second experiment, spermatozoa was exposed for 4 hours and then evaluated for sperm chromatin integrity and then analyzed for percentage of DNA fragmentation, and then compared to non-exposed sperm. Again, the results indicated that Pre-Seed was associated with the smallest amount of sperm DNA damage at 7 percent more than untreated sperm, followed by KY at 10 percent and FemGlide at 15 percent. Besides the brands tested, it is also thought that KY Jelly, Vaseline, and even saliva can have a negative impact on sperm. (One of the least toxic substances is pure mineral oil but it is generally not advised that women use lipid-based products in the vagina. Mineral oil remains an excellent choice for lubrication for masturbation.) We welcome the news that a product that is backed by independent laboratory analysis is now available that can make vaginal intercourse more comfortable as well as acting as a promoter of fertility. -- Carolyn Givens, MD

Posted on December 14th, 2005
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