Can KY Jelly and lubricants affect sperm and fertility?

KY Jelly is sold as a lubricant, not a spermicide. But are claims that KY Jelly and other lubricants can reduce fertility and even damage sperm true? We investigate...

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Look up KY Jelly and fertility on the internet and you’ll see a number of articles and some research suggesting that certain lubricants, including KY Jelly, may reduce the chances of you getting pregnant.

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We’ve noticed quite a few convos on our own forum about whether KY Jelly and other vaginal lubricants (aka lube) are ok to use if you’re trying for a baby.

We’ve even seen some concerns from pregnant MFMers who used it while TTC and are worried that it may affect their unborn baby.

“I was trying to conceive and we were using KY Jelly. I just read that it is not a good lubricant as it kills sperms and can damage DNA in sperms. However, I still got pregnant using it. Is it possible for KY jelly to damage the DNA of the sperm that fertilized my egg?” asked forum member Laurahere.

So what’s the real story? We looked at a number of research results and talked to experts to find out the facts behind these worries…

What is KY jelly?

KY Jelly is a lubricant designed to make sex more comfortable. But it’s not a spermicide. A spermicide is a contraceptive designed to kill sperm and comes in cream, gel or foam form. Lubricants are often recommended by doctors to couples taking a bit longer to conceive – which is ironic if they do have an effect on fertility.

Does the research suggest KY Jelly affects fertility?

Unfortunately, scientific studies have concluded different and contradictory results.

There have been a small number of studies that have examined the effect of lubricants including KY Jelly on fertility.

One US study from 2014 looked at 22 samples of sperm and monitored the effects of 9 different over-the-counter and natural lubricants on the sperm’s motility.

The scientists concluded that the synthetic lubricants KY Jelly and Astroglide, plus sesame oil, did slow the swimming speed of sperm and therefore suggested this could affect fertility. A lubricant called Pre-Seed didn’t have an effect, and this was also true of baby oil, canola and mustard oil. Another study in 2014 found that Pre-seed and Conceive Plus had the least negative effect on sperm motility.

However, as in similar studies, these experiments had only been done in vitro (eg in a laboratory and outside of a living organism). Some scientists questioned whether they’d see the same effect when a couple are having sex.

A separate US study from 2012 looked at fertility and usage of lubricants in real life.

The study involved 296 couples, 14% of whom used lubricants regularly, 29% occasionally, and while actively trying to get pregnant 25% had used lube. The most commonly used lubricants were KY Jelly {44%) and Astroglide (20%).

The researchers found conclusively that using lubricants did not affect natural fertility, stating: “Lubricants are commonly used by couples during procreative intercourse. Lubricant use during procreative intercourse does not appear to reduce the probability of conceiving.”

They proposed three reasons why these results differed from the lab-based ones:

  • Firstly, lubricants may not remain in the upper vagina, where sperm is deposited
  • Sperm deposited in the upper vagina swims quickly into the cervix
  • Lubricants may actually increase the chance of getting pregnant as it may enable more frequent sex

Are any lubricants more suitable for TTC than others?

Studies have shown that in the laboratory experiments Pre-seed and Conceive Plus had least effect on sperm motility. These are certainly popular and recommended brands with mums in our forum.

“I switched from Conceive Plus to Pre-seed and ate pineapple core over 5-12dpo [days past ovulation]! Not sure which of them did the trick but it was our 16th month of trying so I’m sure at least one change played a part,” says Sian.

“I’ve conceived three times using Pre-seed,” adds Monkey_Nuts. “It is runny, but I only use about 1/3 of what they recommend. You put it in with an applicator before you go to bed so I think it feels very natural.”

“I got pregnant 1st cycle after using Conceive Plus so worked for me,” says GsMummy.

Can lubricants actually affect your unborn baby?

At the moment, there’s no evidence to suggest that lubricants can do any harm to your unborn baby.

“As far as I am aware, there is no evidence to suggest that use of lubricants affect development of the foetus,” explains Professor Allan Pacey, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist.

“It would seem reasonable to assume these lubricants do not do any harm if they are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

“For anyone struggling with a fertility issue, it’s a good idea to see your GP if you haven’t conceived after one year of trying. Women aged 36 and over, and anyone who’s already aware they may have fertility problems, should see their GP sooner.”

Can sperm-friendly lubricants enhance fertility?

Lubricants that are specifically sperm-friendly aim to create an environment designed for conceiving.

“Sperm-friendly lubricants work by maintaining the correct PH levels and the appropriate balance of salts and sugars for the sperm to survive,” explains Professor Pacey.

But can they boost your fertility? “As far as I’m aware, they have never been tested in couples to see if they actually enhance conception,” says Professor Pacey.

The bottom line

In the main, it seems that while lab studies have suggested lubricants can affect the motility of sperm, there is no conclusive evidence that using a lubricant will lower your chances of conceiving.

However, certain sperm-friendly lubricants, such as Pre-seed and Conceive Plus, have been shown to have the least effect on sperm motility, and are certainly recommended in our forum.

We have been in touch with the makers of KY Jelly for their response and are awaiting their response.

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