Some brands of vaginal lubricants commonly recommended to couples undergoing fertility treatments may actually damage sperm and reduce the chance of conception.

A new study shows three brands of vaginal lubricants, FemGlide, Replens, and Astroglide, damaged sperm integrity and activity (motility) in laboratory tests. But a fourth brand of vaginal lubricant, Pre-Seed, did not appear to cause significant damage to sperm.

Researchers say vaginal lubricants are often recommended for relieving vaginal dryness in women undergoing fertility treatment.

These results suggest that when mixed with sperm during intercourse, certain vaginal lubricants may affect sperm quality and decrease the potential for fertilization and conception.

The study was presented this week at a joint meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society in Montreal.

Understanding How Conception Works

Vaginal Lubricants May Harm Sperm

In the study, researchers compared the effects of combining donor sperm from 13 different men in a solution of 10 percent of each of the four different vaginal lubricants vs. untreated sperm.

The results showed that sperm activity ranged from a high of 66 percent in untreated sperm to a low of 2 percent in a solution containing Astroglide.

The highest level of sperm activity (64 percent) was found in the solution treated with Pre-Seed vaginal lubricant, followed by 51 percent with FemGlide and 25 percent with Replens. Low sperm activity significantly reduces the chances of conception.

In a second test, researchers compared the long-term effects of exposure to three vaginal lubricants, Pre-Seed, FemGlide, and KY on sperm quality, as measured by DNA damage.

After four hours, the results showed 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.

Researchers say the results suggest that Pre-Seed may be appropriate for use in couples undergoing fertility treatment because it was associated with the least damage to sperm quality and activity.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Conjoint Annual Meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, Montreal, Oct. 15-19, 2005. News release, American Society for Reproductive Medicine.