Spermicide describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving.
Spermicide describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert them deep into the vagina, so they also keep sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus. If you have no other options, spermicide is better than nothing.
With perfect use, spermicides are 82% effective, but with normal use, they’re only 72% effective. Again, that’s better than nothing!
Boost another method.
You can use spermicide to make another birth control method, like condoms or diaphragms, more effective.
No prescription necessary.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, see a medical provider, you can still use spermicide. It’s available at most drug stores and supermarkets. But why not pick up a pack of condoms while you’re there? They’re more effective!
Some people are allergic.
If you get irritated using spermicide, you’re probably allergic to it. Unfortunately, all spermicides and contraceptive gels sold in the United States contain the same active ingredient, nonoxynol-9. If you’re allergic to that, this method (and condoms with spermicidal lubricant) won’t work for you.
Every type of spermicide is different, and there are a lot of them available. Be sure to read the instructions on the packaging and check the expiration date. For the most part, you simply insert the spermicide with your fingers or with an applicator, just like you’d insert a tampon.
After insertion, some spermicides require a wait of 10–15 minutes before having sex. These types of spermicide are also only effective for a single hour after you put them in…so you have to get the timing right. If you decide to have sex again, you will need more spermicide.
Spermicide, let us count the ways to purchase you! It comes in gel, jelly, inserts, film and foam. They all cost about the same—somewhere under $2 per use—and they’re available at pharmacies and drug stores.
You might still need condoms.
Condoms are called STI-icides for a reason! Some people drop them too soon. Remember—spermicide won’t protect you from STIs. Only stop using condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.
You’re confident your partner is STI-free.
Some spermicides make little changes in the walls of your vagina that make you more susceptible to STIs and HIV. If you’re not sure you’re both infection free, definitely use a condom.
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.
- Easy to use and convenient to find
- Doesn’t affect your hormones
- No prescription necessary
- Can be used while breastfeeding
- Can be kind of messy and/or leak out of the vagina
- Might irritate the vagina or the penis
- Some people are allergic to spermicide
- All spermicides sold in the U.S. contain nonoxynol-9, which can lead to an increased risk of HIV and STI transmission
- Hard to remember to use if you’re consuming drugs or alcohol
Don’t take our word for it. Check out these videos to hear people talk about their experiences with spermicide.
Expert dirt: “It can help some other methods work better, but it can also put you more at risk for STIs.”