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Learning about Lubricants

Are lubricants as important as the advertisements claim, and what role do lubricants and female cervical mucus play in fertility and getting pregnant?

Let’s take this question, one topic at a time, dealing with cervical mucus first.

What is cervical mucus?
Cervical mucus is a reflection of the overall estrogen level and where a woman is in her monthly cycle. Cervical fluid changes throughout ovulation. When an egg is released, the mucus texture chances to an egg white-like consistency. That allows for sperm to penetrate through the cervix, travel through the uterus and fallopian tubes, and arrive near the ovaries where the egg is released.

Every woman has her own personal level of cervical mucus. Some women have a lot, others don’t. Get to know your body and learn what is normal for you.

Advertising Myths
Some women have heard or read that there is great importance behind the quality of cervical mucus, which indirectly lays blame on the woman if she can’t get pregnant.

You’ll sometimes read advertising claims for certain lubrication products that indicate that the vagina is “toxic,” and therefore not hospitable to sperm and becoming pregnant. These claims are based on the idea that some cervical mucus is too acidic or has pH balance issues, and of course, the advertising provides solutions – usually through products they are offering – to “fix” the situation. The bottom line is that these advertising claims can be misleading. Don’t believe these claims. There usually isn’t anything “wrong” with a woman’s cervical mucus.

Sometimes not having enough mucus can be a sign of a hormonal issue, and rarely an infection, but the products these advertising claims are promoting are not a solution if that is the case. If you are concerned about your cervical mucus, these issues should be checked out by a doctor.

The Truth about Lubricants
So while lubricants don’t really have any impact on cervical mucus, these products do sometimes have a role to play helping some women get pregnant. The main benefit is in facilitating the actual act of intercourse by offsetting dryness.

A woman may experience dryness if she is in menopause, has premature ovarian failure or is not properly aroused for intercourse. Issues with sexual dysfunction, such as anxiety, can also result in low lubrication levels.

If you’re trying to have a baby, be sure to avoid some of the popular over-the-counter lubricants that contain spermicide. Spermicidal agents will obviously hurt the sperm’s motility and therefore your ability to get pregnant.

I recommend using a water-based lubricant. Check the label on the lubricant to see the ingredients and make sure it is water-based. Avoid anything with a spermicide. I also recommend canola or olive oil, because they are natural, and you don’t have to use very much to be effective in attaining good lubrication.

The use of saliva as a lubricant is a gray area. There is conflicting research, with some studies showing that saliva can impair sperm.

Lubricants help offset dryness, but that is their only benefit for getting pregnant.

For more information about services at the U-M Center for Reproductive Medicine, or to make an appointment, visit the Center for Reproductive Medicine website.

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Senait Fisseha, MD, JD, is the medical director for the University of Michigan Health System’s Center for Reproductive Medicine.  Her areas of specialty cover all aspects of infertility including: polycystic ovary syndrome, recurrent pregnancy loss, other endocrine disorders resulting in infertility; as well as assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF/ICSI, and gamete and embryo cryopreservation.

 

The University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine uses a multidisciplinary approach that brings the expertise of endocrinology and infertility specialists, OB-GYN’s, urologists, lab technicians and research scientists together to help each of our clients have access to the latest expertise and technology available – through one convenient center.