Spermicides contain chemicals to stop sperm from getting to an egg. They come in
several different forms: cream, gel, foam, film, and suppositories. Spermicides can
be used alone but are more effective when used with another method of birth control,
such as a condom or diaphragm.
How Does Spermicide Work?
Spermicides block the cervix
(the opening to the uterus) and slow sperm
down to make it harder for them to swim to an egg. In order to work, the spermicide
must be placed deep in the vagina close to the cervix. Creams, gels, and foams are
squirted into the vagina using an applicator. Other types of spermicides include vaginal
contraceptive film (VCF), a thin sheet placed in the back of vagina by hand, and vaginal
Spermicides must be placed in the vagina before sexual intercourse. The instructions
will say how long before sex the spermicide should be used. Most must be placed in
the vagina at least 10 to 15 minutes before sex so they have enough time to dissolve
Many forms of spermicides are effective for only 1 hour after they are inserted.
More spermicide should be used if more than 1 hour passes before sex, or if a couple
is going to have sex again. A girl shouldn't douche for at least 6 hours after a couple
has sex using spermicide as birth control.
How Well Does Spermicide Work?
Over the course of a year, about 28 out of 100 typical couples who use spermicide
will have an accidental pregnancy.
Spermicides are not as effective on their own as many other types of birth control
and work best when used with another form of birth
Does Spermicide Help Prevent STDs?
No. Spermicide does not protect against STDs.
Couples having sex must always use condoms
to protect against STDs.
Are There Any Side Effects With Spermicide?
Spermicides may irritate the vagina and surrounding skin. This irritation may make
it easier to be infected with STDs like HIV.
Those who use spermicide may be more likely to develop urinary
Who Can Use Spermicide?
Spermicide may be a good birth control option for couples who can plan in advance
of having sex and who want extra protection when they use condoms or other barrier
methods of contraception.
Where Is Spermicide Available?
Spermicides are available without a prescription in drugstores and some supermarkets.
(In some stores, they're in the "Family Planning" aisle.) They're often found near
the condoms and feminine hygiene products.
Care should be taken when choosing a spermicide — the packages may look like
those of some feminine hygiene products, such as douches or washes, which don't provide
any birth control protection.
How Much Does Spermicide Cost?
Depending on the type of spermicide chosen (film is more expensive than gel), spermicide
costs about $0.60 to $3 per use.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Someone who uses spermicide should call the doctor if she:
might be pregnant
has a change in the smell or color of her vaginal discharge