Getting Pregnant and Sperm Health: Vaginal Lubricants
Couples experiencing fertility problems often use vaginal lubricants in order to alleviate vaginal dryness. However, women who use a vaginal lubricant may be inadvertently harming their partnerï¿½s fertility, namely, their sperm health. In fact, while vaginal lubricants help to alleviate vaginal dryness that is often a result of the stress of infertility, as well as fertility medicine and treatment, these reproductive health products can seriously harm sperm health, thereby reducing a coupleï¿½s chances of getting pregnant.
The Effects of Vaginal Lubricants on Sperm Health
Several studies conducted over the past three decades have consistently found that all vaginal lubricants studied to date contain sperm damaging properties that reduce sperm motility (that is, the percentage of swimming sperm) as well as sperm viability (the percentage of live sperm).
A recent American study reviewed 16 lubricants and their effects on sperm health, including all the leading brands of vaginal lubricants such as KY, Replens and Astroglide. The study found that all of the products reviewed had a negative effect on sperm motility as well as viability, even if the lubricant was applied in small concentrations (i.e. less than 10%).
In fact, the spermicidal quality of the products was found to be comparable to contraceptive jelly such as Gynol. Another negative effect of the vaginal lubricants was that it reduced spermï¿½s ability to penetrate the cervix. For it to be possible for pregnancy to occur, sperm must penetrate cervical mucus and then proceed to the fallopian tubes in great numbers.
Vaginal lubricants, including water soluble ones, are so damaging to sperm health because they contain glycerin and propylene glycol, both of which are extremely hyperosmotic (absorb water). This is damaging to sperm, which is highly sensitive to adverse osmolality (concentration of particles that are osmotically active in a solution). In fact, both high and low levels of osmolality can cause sperm cells to shrink or swell excessively. Sperm motility also decreases with high osmolality. On average, vaginal lubricants have osmolality levels that are 3 to 10 times that of semen, thereby resulting in irreversible damage to sperm motility upon contact.
In addition, the pH levels that are found in vaginal lubricants are quite low, which is also damaging to sperm. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), healthy pH levels for sperm range from 7.0 to 8.5, a level that is consistent with female cervical mucus at the time of ovulation. However, vaginal lubricants have pH levels that are lower than 7 and that are frequently half this amount, resulting in sperm damage.
Natural Alternatives to Vaginal Lubricants
In order to improve you and your partnerï¿½s chances of getting pregnant, as well as to minimize the negative effects on your sperm health, your partner may try some of the following natural alternatives to vaginal lubricants:
- increase water intake. Increasing water intake to 8 glasses of water daily promotes overall hydration and can therefore reduce vaginal dryness.
- maintain a healthy diet. Low fat, high carb diets are especially harmful to a womanï¿½s reproductive health, as they decrease oestrogen levels that are essential to vaginal health. To improve vaginal health, women should increase their intake of phytoestrogens such as soy and flaxseed.
- reduce chemical exposure. Many chemicals found in found in bathing, laundry and personal products used by women on a regular basis contain chemicals and fragrances which irritate the sensitive mucosal tissues of the vagina.
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