- Spermicides prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from getting to the egg.
- Spermicides alone do not protect against STIs and HIV – it’s best to use with condoms.
- You can have an allergic reaction to spermicides.
Just like any other type of birth control, you need to use spermicides the correct way for them to be effective. Spermicides are much more effective when used with another barrier (birth control) method. If you decide to use spermicide, you need to use it every time you have sexual intercourse.
|Out of 100 women using spermicides|
|Typical use: 28 women become pregnant|
|Perfect use: 18 women become pregnant|
What are spermicides and how do they work?
Spermicides are a type of (vaginal) barrier method of birth control. There are different forms of spermicides, including vaginal creams, foams, gels, films, tablets, and suppositories. Spermicides work by forming a chemical barrier that either kills sperm or slows them down so they can’t pass through the cervix to fertilize an egg.
Where can I get spermicide?
You can get spermicide over-the-counter at pharmacies and other retail stores. No prescription is needed. It costs between $0.60-$3 per dose, and about $8-$15 per package.
How effective is spermicide against pregnancy?
Spermicide alone is one of the least effective forms of contraception. They are much more effective when used with another type of contraceptive such as a condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap.
If women use spermicide every time they have sexual intercourse and follow instructions perfectly every time, it is 82% effective. This means that if 100 women use spermicide all the time and always use it correctly, 18 women will become pregnant in a year.
If women use spermicide, but not perfectly, it is only 72% effective. This means that if 100 women use spermicide, 28 women or more will become pregnant in a year.
Does spermicide protect against STIs?
No. Spermicide alone is not effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections. You need to use condoms for STI and HIV protection.
How do I use spermicides?
Since there are many types of spermicides, you’ll need to follow the directions on the product package. Most spermicides require that you:
- Insert the spermicide deep into the vagina just before intercourse
- Wait about 10-15 minutes after you insert spermicide into your vagina before having sex
- Insert spermicide no more than 30-60 minutes before having intercourse
The effectiveness of the spermicide usually lasts about an hour, so you will need to insert more spermicide if you are having sexual intercourse for more than an hour. Each time you have sexual intercourse, you should insert more spermicide into your vagina.
What about douching after intercourse?
Douching is not recommended after intercourse or any other time. There are no benefits and it is not safe because it can cause an increased risk in pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis (an infection of the vagina), and ectopic pregnancy (implantation of the fertilized egg outside of the uterus). Your body makes everything it needs to keep it clean. All you should use to clean the outside of your vagina is water and mild soap. However, if you decide to douche in spite of this warning, you should wait at least 6 hours after intercourse so that the spermicide does not get washed away.
Are there any problems with spermicides?
Some women are allergic to spermicides, while others have some irritation in or around their vagina. Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) is the only active chemical in spermicides made in the United States. Women who are allergic to nonoxynol-9 should not use any birth control method that contains spermicide or works with spermicide. Frequent intercourse with spermicides may increase your risk of vaginal irritation, urinary tract infections and HIV. Condoms (used every time you have intercourse) are your best defense against sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).
What if I have problems with spermicides?
You should call your health care provider if you have any of the following:
- Soreness in your vagina
- Rash in or around your vagina
- Discharge that smells bad or that comes in a larger amount than normal
- Pain, burning or frequency when urinating (peeing)
Scientists are working on new spermicides that are less irritating to the vagina and kill bacteria that cause some sexually transmitted infections.