What are spermicides?
Vaginal spermicides are inserted into the vagina prior to having vaginal intercourse to help prevent pregnancy. Vaginal spermicides are available in the form of a gel, a foam or a film. Contraceptive sponges, another form of contraception that is inserted in the vagina prior to intercourse, also contain spermicide as do some condoms.
How do spermicides work?
Spermicide contains a chemical called Nonoxynol-9 which kills sperm. It also creates a barrier around the cervix, making it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. It is important not to bathe, swim or douche 6-8 hours after having sex when you have used a spermicide because it can wash away the spermicide and make it less effective.
How effective are spermicides?
The effectiveness depends on whether you are using the spermicide alone or with a barrier method (condom, diaphragm/cervical cap):
• Used alone: 79-94% effective
• Used with a latex condom: 98% effective
* Spermicides do not protect against sexually transmitted infections *
How do I use a spermicide?
• Check the expiry date of the spermicide. If it has expired, throw it out.
• Read the instructions included in the package. Instructions for use differ slightly from one spermicide to another.
• Before using a spermicide for the first time, both partners should test a small amount on their wrists to make sure that they do not have an allergic reaction. If your skin reacts to the spermicide, it will also cause a reaction in your vagina or on your penis.
Gels, foams and creams are usually inserted with an applicator, similar to inserting a tampon. Fill the entire applicator with spermicide, insert the applicator into the vagina as close to the cervix as possible and push on the end of applicator to release the spermicide. Gels, foams and creams:
• Are effective immediately
• Last up to one hour (at its maximum effectiveness)
• Must be inserted before each act of vaginal sex (one application is effective for one ejaculation)
Vaginal contraceptive film is a thin sheet that dissolves in the body. It is manually inserted into the vagina. Fold the film in half twice. When you fold it for the second time, fold it over your finger and insert it into your vagina as far back as you can place it. Vaginal contraceptive film:
• Is effective after 15 minutes (it needs to dissolve before it takes effect)
• Lasts up to one hour
• Must be inserted before each act of vaginal sex (one film is effective for one ejaculation)
What are the advantages of using a spermicide?
• Provides extra lubrication
• Does not interrupt sex
• Safe to use if you are breast-feeding
• Does not contain hormones
• No prescription needed
• Spermicidal film is very discrete and can easily be carried in a purse
What are the disadvantages of using a spermicide?
• Can be messy
• Has an unpleasant taste: if you are planning to have oral sex before vaginal sex, insert spermicide after oral sex to avoid unpleasant tastes and other possible skin irritations
• You or your partner may have an allergic reaction to the spermicide
• May cause skin irritation in the vagina, on the vulva or on the penis
• Has to be reapplied every time you have vaginal sex
• Does not protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; in fact, frequent use of spermicide can cause skin irritation which can, in turn, make it easier for HIV and other STIs to be transmitted.
How can I get a spermicide?
Spermicides are available at pharmacies without a prescription.
How much do spermicides cost?
Pharmacy: Vaginal contraceptive film: Approximately $10 for 6
Contraceptive foam (40g): Approximately $14 with an applicator
Contraceptive cream: Approximately $13.00