Lubricants for the promotion of sexual health and well-being: a systematic review

Caitlin E. Kennedy, Ping Teresa Yeh, Jingjia Li, Lianne Gonsalves, Manjulaa Narasimhan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Promoting sexual health is a World Health Organization (WHO) priority. Lubricants are widely available and used to improve sexual pleasure and reduce pain during intercourse. To inform WHO’s self-care interventions guideline, we conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature to answer the question: does use of lubricants during or prior to sex result in improved sexual health and well-being. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, LILACS and EMBASE on 8 July 2020 for effectiveness, values and preferences, and cost data related to commercially available vaginal and anal lubricants. Data were systematically extracted and qualitatively synthesised. Effectiveness evidence was summarised in GRADE evidence profiles. Seven studies met the effectiveness review criteria. Two randomised trials found lubricant use led to improved female sexual well-being and had no impact on incidence of human papillomavirus (moderate certainty evidence). One observational study with gay and bisexual men showed lubricants were associated with increased reports of pain during receptive intercourse and no difference in pain during insertive intercourse, but a reduced degree of pain in both types of intercourse (low/very low certainty evidence). One observational study with female breast cancer survivors found better outcomes of vaginal dryness and dyspareunia with lubricant use (very low certainty evidence). Twenty-one values and preferences studies from diverse populations globally found that most individuals supported lubricant use for reasons of comfort/reduced pain and sexual pleasure. No cost studies were identified. Although evidence is limited, lubricants appear to offer an acceptable approach to improving sexual health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2044198
JournalSexual and Reproductive Health Matters
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • anal sex
  • dyspareunia
  • lubricants
  • sexual health
  • systematic review
  • vaginal dryness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Lubricants for the promotion of sexual health and well-being: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this