All of the volunteer women in the study used one of six different water- or silicone-based lubricants. The study found participants strongly believed that lubricant use improved the overall sexual experience. In more than 70 percent of sexual encounters, the women indicated using lubricants made sex feel very pleasurable, and more comfortable.
Personal lubricants have long been recommended to women to improve the comfort of sexual intercourse and to reduce the risk of vaginal tearing, yet strikingly little available data is available on women's use of lubricants or associated vaginal symptoms.
The study, presented today during an APHA conference, involved 2,453 women ages 18 to 68 and was conducted by Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
The study also found that side effects were rarely associated with lubricant use; vaginal tearing occurred during less than 1 percent of vaginal intercourse events, and genital pain was reported in less than 5 percent of intercourse acts when lubricant was used.
Researchers also noted that when applying lubricant, 58.4 percent of sexual activity involved application to the woman's genitals by their sexual partner, 54.7 percent involved women applying lubricant to their own or their partner's fingers, and 53.4 percent involved women applying lubricant directly on their partner's genitals.
Most frequently reported reasons for lubricant use included the desire to reduce the risk of tearing (22 percent), and to make sex more comfortable (21.8 percent).
Eighty-five percent of the women in the study were heterosexual, and 56 percent were married, with an average age of 32.
The research was supported by The Patty Brisben Foundation. The findings were presented during the "Women and HIV: Emerging Issues" seminar, entitled, "What's Sex Got To Do With It?" at the APHA conference. Co-authors are Devon J. Hensel , IU School of Medicine; Kristen Jozkowski, Center for Sexual Health Promotion; Michael Reece, CSHP; and J. Dennis Fortenberry, IU School of Medicine.
Another CSHP study presented today at the conference involved 1,834 men and examined their use of lubricants during vaginal intercourse. The study involved 8,876 coital encounters, 46.8 percent involving the use of a latex condom, and 24.7 percent involving the use of a lubricant.
Interestingly, the study found that the addition of lubricant to condoms was more likely during intercourse with a spouse than with a non-committed partner, during intercourse of longer duration, when a female partner applied the condom to the partner's penis, and when a female partner used Nuva Ring, IUD or spermicidal jelly/foam as a method of contraception.
Additional results found that most frequently, lubricant was added to the external tip of the condom after penile application (22.5 percent), directly in or around the partner's vagina (16.2 percent), and to both the condom and vagina (16.2 percent).