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Despite Labels, Some Vaginal Lubricants Harm Sperm

Reuters,  Nov 11, 2010
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Some vaginal lubricants labeled as "no spermicidal" may not be so harmless to sperm, and could actually thwart their egg-bound journey, suggests a new Swiss study.

Researchers studied four gels in the lab, of which only one -- Pre-Seed -- appeared not to be toxic to sperm.

Women who suffer from vaginal dryness often use lubricants to improve the comfort of intercourse. The gels can also be employed to ease the insertion of medical devices, including probes used for imaging tests during the course of fertility treatment.

"It appears that most commercially available lubricants found in Switzerland are quite toxic to ejaculated sperm," researcher Alfred Senn of the Foundation for Andrology, Biology and Endocrinology of Reproduction, an independent foundation in Lausanne, Switzerland, told Reuters Health in an e-mail. "This was new to us."

In a study funded by Hygis, a Swiss company that resells pharmaceutical compounds but does not produce Pre-Seed, Senn and his colleagues tested the survival of donated sperm after 24 hours of exposure to commercially available lubricants labeled as nonspermicidal. The gels were diluted to mimic typical exposure in the vagina.

One of the lubricants, Aquasonic Ultrasound Gel, is commonly used for ultrasounds to monitor the follicle development in fertility patients before intercourse or insemination. The rest were products predominantly used by couples or as a vaginal lubricant for middle-aged and older women.

At the end of the 24 hours, three of the four gels -- Felis Lubricant, Replens Vaginal Moisturizer and Aquasonic -- had reduced sperm movement by up to 88 percent, despite saying "nonspermicidal" on the label. Only Pre-Seed appeared benign.

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