Trying to conceive: Should you use lube or not?
Trying to conceive (TTC) and get pregnant is a process where lots of women have questions about. Just a few short years ago, we wouldn’t have thought twice about using lubricant while trying to conceive. Today, we know that some lubricants aren’t sperm-friendly and so should be avoided if a baby is the end goal.
But before we get into all that, let’s begin with the basics. Vaginas naturally self lubricate to prepare for sexual intercourse. The glands in the cervix and the vaginal wall create the necessary lubricant which makes baby-making more comfortable and, let’s face it, more fun.
Vaginal discharge, also known as cervical mucus, changes throughout the cycle with more present during ovulation. This naturally-made lubricant helps sperm to swim and survive once inside the vagina.
Lubricants and fertility: What causes vaginal dryness?
Vaginal dryness is common and rarely a cause for concern. It’s also perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of.
Stress plays a big role in our body’s arousal response.
The anxiety around trying to get pregnant as well as regular daily stressors can impact libido. Not to mention that having sex on a regimented schedule is rarely conducive to carefree fun!
Other factors might be at play too. Hormonal fluctuations can lead to vaginal dryness, as can some medications and (somewhat counterintuitively) certain fertility drugs. For example, Clomid - an estrogen-blocker - may cause dryness as estrogen is key to vaginal moisture.
Any one of these factors can lower desire which results in the body producing less natural lubricant. In these instances, sex can lead to chafing, irritation, and general discomfort. And that alone is enough to turn anyone off.
Trying to conceive: Who should use lubricant?
Anyone who has experienced vaginal dryness can benefit from using a lubricant. Even if vaginal dryness is not a concern, sometimes we simply prefer more moisture than our bodies provide.
A lubricant is a liquid or gel that can be applied prior to or during sex. Many women find that using a personal lubricant makes sex more comfortable and enjoyable as it reduces friction and irritation.
This extra wetness can enhance lovemaking for both partners and elevate your sex life in general.
The four types of vaginal lubricants
Most lubricants fit into one of four categories: oil-based, water-based, silicone-based, or hybrid which is a combination of formulas. Each has its own pros and cons for usage, and each can affect fertility in different ways.
Choosing a lubricant is a personal decision but when trying for a baby, there are e xtra factors to take into account. This is because some lubricants can decrease sperm motility (how well the sperm swim) and survival by as much as 60-100%.
Some lubricants also contain substances which might lead to irritation or an allergic reaction.
Always read the list of ingredients and look out for glycerine, petroleum, spermicide, antibacterial ingredients, and parabens. Parabens are classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which can impact your body’s level of fertility hormones including estrogen and testosterone.
What are fertility-friendly lubricants?
During ovulation, the pH level of a woman’s body rises to become more alkaline. The pH level of the vagina plays an important role as an acidic vaginal environment does not support sperm survival.
Certain lubricants are designed to mimic the natural chemical environment of the vagina during ovulation.
Rather than picking just any lubricant off the shelf, look for fertility-friendly brands. This means the lubricant has been developed and is clinically proven to be compatible with sperm, eggs, and embryos.
It will also be suitable for use during fertility testing or treatment. The most popular sperm-friendly lubricants are ConceivePlus and PreSeed.
What’s most important is that you do your research and avoid substances that might harm the sperm and eggs. Canola oil and plain baby oil are somewhat sperm-friendly but, as with any lubricant, there is always a chance of irritation. Saliva is not sperm-friendly and the acidity can impair sperm motility.
How to use a lubricant properly?
There’s no rule book for using a personal lubricant but there are a few tips that can help you get the most pleasure and also save time on the post-sex cleanup.
- Squeeze the lubricant into your palm and warm it in your hands before applying. This will ensure the lubricant is at a more pleasurable temperature before application.
- Lay down a towel to avoid wet patches or staining the bedsheets. It’s easier to throw a towel in the washing machine than to totally strip the bed after every lovemaking session!
- Use the lubricant during foreplay to boost arousal — it’s not just for the main event!
- Apply liberally — there’s no need to lather yourself in the stuff but too much is better than not enough.
Evangelia Elenis, MD, PhD.
This text is fact checked by Evangelia Elenis, MD, PhD. Dr. Elenis is a chief physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine. She is a PhD and affiliated researcher at Uppsala University with postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School.
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