Numerous studies over the years have evaluated the effect of different lubricants and even saliva on sperm. Many couples rely on lubricants, such as KY-Jelly, to overcome issues with vaginal dryness. In addition, the fertility drug clomiphine (Clomid) has been shown to decrease cervical mucus in many women.
A 1998 study in the medical journal Human Reproduction examined the effect of KY jelly, baby oil, olive oil and saliva on sperm motility (movement) along with other semen characteristics. Each of the tested lubricants had serious effects on sperm, the most toxic of which was saliva. The least detrimental of those tested was baby oil. The authors concluded, “we would recommend that couples – especially those having difficulty in conceiving – should be aware of the detrimental effects of such lubricants and avoid their use.”
A study published this year in Fertility and Sterility compared the effects of several common lubricants (FemGlide, Astroglide, Replens and Pre-seed) on sperm motility and DNA. Pre-seed was designed specifically to avoid sperm damage seen with other lubricants, and the findings of this study, performed at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, confirm that. FemGlide, Replens and Astroglide all significantly decreased sperm motility, while Pre-seed did not. In addition, FemGlide and K-Y Jelly were both found to harm the DNA within the sperm.
These studies were all performed in vitro (i.e. in a test tube) and they were not evaluating the likelihood of conception, so it is possible that these lubricants may have different or lesser effects when used during sex.
Aspirin has a range of medicinal properties including acting as an anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory agent. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in the role of aspirin in promoting pregnancy and decreasing the risk of miscarriage.
A 1997 study found that 100 mg of aspirin improved uterine blood flow.
For treatment of women who have antiphospholipid antibodies (something your doctor would typically diagnose after one or more miscarriages), combination of heparin and aspirin has been shown to improve outcome. However, three trials with aspirin alone failed to reduce pregnancy loss. Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune disease that causes problems with blood coagulation. As a result, small blot clots can form and result in recurrent miscarriage.
The majority of studies involving aspirin in women without diagnosed APS have been carried out in women undergoing IVF. Unfortunately, much of the data is conflicting. However, since there is some evidence that aspirin may increase the odds of pregnancy in IVF and potential side-effects are mild, it is recommended that aspirin continues to be used daily during this treatment.
In order to determine whether aspirin can improve the odds of conception and decrease miscarriage rate, a study is currently underway at several sites in the US. The “Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction trial“, or EAGeR, will last for 5 years and study 1600 women who will receive either 80 mg of aspirin or a placebo daily. Stay tuned for results of this important study…
Note: All studies have been performed with baby aspirin, approximately 81-100 mg per day. Regular aspirin dose is 300 mg, so if you are going to take aspirin while trying to conceive, make sure that you take only baby aspirin.
A study published in 2002 examined the effect of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility. This large, well-designed clinical trial found a 74% increase in total normal sperm when subfertile men took 66 mg of zinc sulfate and 5 mg of folic acid daily. Sperm count also increased in fertile men, but this was not statistically significant.
The doses used in this study are rather high, considering that the US RDA is 15 mg per day of zinc and 400 micrograms (400 mcg = 0.4 mg).
While these results appear very promising, the impact of increased sperm count on likelihood of conception was not evaluated in this study.
While there are plenty of internet rumors suggesting that taking Geritol can miraculously improve fertility, even the manufacturer has this to say:
“Will the use of Geritol® increase my sex drive or fertility?
There’s no evidence that Geritol® can increase fertility and we don’t make that claim. We’re not sure how the rumor got started, but there’s no truth to it.”
Geritol, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is simply a multivitamin containing iron. Chances are, the prenatal vitamin you are taking is superior. Here’s how a few compare:
- Geritol Complete: 16 mg iron
- Geritol Tonic: 18 mg iron
- PrimaCare (prescription prenatal vitamin): 30 mg
- Rainbow Light Just Once (over-the-counter prenatal vitamin): 30 mg
- Solgar Prenatal (over-the-counter prenatal vitamin): 27 mg
A large study was published in 2006, examining the effects of supplemental iron (in multivitamins or other supplements) on infertility. The study concluded that women who took supplemental iron had a significantly lower risk (approximately half) of ovulatory infertility.
Bottom line: Take a good prenatal tablet, containing sufficient iron along with other essential vitamins and minerals, and skip the Geritol.
A study published in Fertility and Sterlity in 1982 involved treatment of 40 women who had been unable to conceive for at least 10 months, due to hostile cervical mucus. They took 200 mg of guaifenesin (Robitussin, Tussin), three times daily, from cycle day 5 until ovulation was observed based on rise in basal body temperature.
75% of the women had an improvement in the quality of cervical mucus (improved spinnbarkeit and ferning). Of the 23 women with marked improvement, 15 of them became pregnant, after an average of 2.4 months.
Guaifenesin is typically used to increase respiratory tract secretions, and a similar mechanism is believed to occur, improving cervical mucus.
Patients that had NO cervical mucus to begin with were excluded from the study.
Subsequent studies and reviews have concluded that while treatment with guaifenesin is the simplest and cheapest way to improve mucus quality, it is also the least effective. For true cervical factor infertility, ethyinyl estradiol (synthetic estrogen) may be prescribed.
NOTE: Guaifenesin alone should be taken (original Robitussin, Tussin, etc.) Many cold medications contain multiple active drugs, most of which are unsafe during pregnancy or have other side effects. For example, Robitussin-DM contains dextromethorphan.
Vitamin C, a water soluble antioxidant, (ascorbic acid) has been shown to improve fertility in women with a luteal phase defect (diagnosed based on luteal phase <10 days and low serum progesterone). Women randomized to the treatment group took 750 mg of vitamin C per day. Not only did serum progesterone increase in 53% of the women, but 25% of them became pregnant during the study, as compared to only 10% who were not taking vitamin C.
Many prenatal vitamins, including Nature Made and Twinlab only have 100-120 mg of vitamin C. While this exceeds the RDA, supplementing with additional vitamin C (for example, with 750 mg as in the study) is considered very safe, since this is a water-soluble vitamin that will simply be eliminated in urine. In addition, quality vitamin C is inexpensive and readily available as a chewable
or as tablets.
While green tea is purported to have many wonderful health benefits, the study that much of this info comes from was actually evaluating the effect of caffeine on rates of conception. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that drinking one half-cup or more caffeinated tea per day approximately doubled the odds of conception per cycle. There was no correlation between decaffeinated or herbal tea and improved fertility.
This study wasn’t designed to see if adding tea to your daily diet can improve fertility, so although they corrected for the effects of weight, alcohol and cigarettes, it is entirely possible that tea drinkers have other lifestyle factors that improve their odds of conception.