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 birth
control method, such as condoms or a 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 suppositories.
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 control.
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 become 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.
Take care 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: