Last updated: February 2016.

What is spermicide?

Spermicide is a product used as a birth control method, containing specific chemical products that prevent sperm from moving in the cervix, and create a barrier by the cervix, so sperm cannot reach the egg.

The most common active ingredient in spermicides in the United States is nonoxynol-9, and it prevents the mobility of sperm. Other ingredients used for this purpose in other countries are octoxynol-9, menfegol, and benzalkonium chloride, though these are not as effective.

Spermicide can come in the form of cream, foam, gel, a film, or suppositories. Where you wondering about contraceptive lube? Sometimes spermicide is called spermicidal lube when it comes in form o a gel-like substance that can be used as a lubricating agent too. In this case, the spermicide would be serving two purposes: birth control and vaginal lubrication.

How is spermicide used?

Spermicide is applied inside of the vaginal cavity before the sexual intercourse. It can be applied as easily as using your fingers. It all depends in the brand. Some of them come with applicators. The general method involves you putting it (deep) inside of your vagina. It can even be part of the sexy play. It’s very important that you read the instructions carefully and learn how to use the spermicide / spermicidal lube. If you apply correctly it will be more effective. Some of the products require you to wait some minutes (generally 10 minutes) after applying before starting the intercourse. In most cases, you shouldn’t douche (introduce a stream of water to clean inside your vagina) until after 8 hours after the intercourse (doesn’t mean you can’t shower).

How effective is spermicide as a birth control method?

Spermicide’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, as it happens with most birth control methods, depends a lot on whether or not you use the product correctly. If used correctly and consistently, the effectiveness of the spermicide is about 82%. Using the spermicide typically (not always correctly) lowers the effectiveness to 72% (1).

You can combine spermicide with other methods for more effective protection, such as:

Combining two methods will always be more effective than just using one. In case of a condom leaking, for example, having used the spermicidal could add some extra protection.

Important: It is NOT effective at all if you use it after having sexual intercourse. If you have a broken condom it's just best to go for the after-day pill. The spermicide won't be effective.

Does spermicide can protect me again STDs?

It’s important to remember that spermicide DOES NOT protect you from getting a sexually transmitted infection. Always use a condom if you are not with a trusted partner.

In fact, if nonoxynol-9 is used more than twice per day, it can irritate the vaginal skin and increase the risk of acquiring HIV if the person is exposed during sexual intercourse.

How healthy / safe it is to use spermicide?

One of the reasons for many women to like spermicides is because they don’t affect their hormonal system. It’s pretty harmless in this sense, you won’t get any side effects in the short or long term as if you were in the pill.

In regards of your skin, spermicide in general is very safe to use. For some people though the chemicals used might cause irritation or allergic reactions in the skin. If it’s your case, simply discontinue its use and change brand. Nonoxynol-9, the active ingredient in most spermicides, can irritate the skin in some people, specially if used many times per day.

Which is the best spermicide in the market? Where to buy?

Here we show you our selection of the best 5 brands for you to pick a spermicide that you can also buy online. These products are also available over the counter in any drugstore near you. You do not need a prescription.

Options Conceptrol - Vaginal Contraceptive Gel

Conceptrol Spermicide

Price: $10.99
Buy on Amazon

Score: 4.0 / 5.0



  • Its active ingredient is nonoxynol-9 (4%), the most effective spermicide used in the United States.
  • Comes with a tube contained the gel and a 10 pre-filled applicators for easy application of the product.
  • The package includes detailed instructions.
  • This spermicide has the consistency of a clear gel. It’s slick and smooth. Feels cold when you first apply it. Works well as lubricant.
  • There is no waiting time after applying this product, you can have sexual intercourse straight away after applying.



Options Gynol II - Vaginal Contraceptive Gel

Gynol II Spermicide

Price: $12.28
Buy on Amazon

Score: 3.8 / 5.0



  • Its active ingredient is nonoxynol-9 (3%), the most effective spermicide used in the United States.
  • Comes with a tube contained the gel and a reusable applicator for easy application of the product.
  • The package includes detailed instructions, which you can also check here.
  • The package contains enough for 13 applications. Consider each time you have vaginal intercourse you should apply a new dose.
  • This spermicide has the consistency of a clear gel. It’s slick at touch. Feels a little bit cold when you apply it. Works well as lubricant.
  • A little messy when you need to fill the applicator.


ContraGel Green - Contraceptive Gel

Contragel Green Spermicide

Price: $26.99
Buy on Amazon

Score: 3.8 / 5.0



  • Made with 100% natural, vegan ingredients: Water, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Methyl Cellulose, Sorbic Acid.
  • Less aggressive to your skin that other containing harsh chemicals.
  • Works by forming a mechanical barrier of pH 3.8 in front of the cervix, immobilizing the sperm.
  • Safe to use with other birth control methods such as cervical caps, latex condoms, etc.
  • Made in Europe (Germany).
  • Doesn’t include applicators, you might want to get some generic ones separately, these are good.
  • Package contains full instructions on how to use, which you can also check here.
  • This spermicide has the consistency of a clear gel. It’s slick at touch. Feels a little bit cold when you apply it. Works well as lubricant.
  • A little messy when you need to fill the applicator.



Today Sponge - Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge

Today Sponge Spermicide

Price: $26.99
Buy on Amazon

Score: 3.7 / 5.0



  • This consists of a sponge containing nonoxynol-9 that you insert in your vagina and works for 24 hours.
  • Improved effectiveness than spermicide alone (91% of effectiveness).
  • You or your partner won’t feel anything while it’s in there, it’s like if it wasn’t there.
  • Easy to introduce and easy to remove.
  • Package contains 3 sponges.
  • Package contains full instructions on how to use, which you can also check here.



Encare – Vaginal Contraceptive Inserts

Encare Spermicide

Price: $12.13
Buy on Amazon

Score: 3.2 / 5.0



  • Its active ingredient is nonoxynol-9.
  • This product comes in the form of solid inserts that you introduce in your vagina.
  • You need to wait 10 minutes before intercourse.
  • Package contains 18 inserts, that come individually wrapped.
  • Lubrication effect can be felt as the insert dissolves.



Remember to always talk to your health provider before making any decisions about birth control methods.

Pros

Cons

Final recommendation about spermicide

If you are worried about getting pregnant, use spermicide and another barrier method combined (condom, diaphragm, cervical cap, etc.) at the same time. Do not use spermicide alone and expect not to get pregnant, as it’s not very effective (70-80% effectiveness).

Using a condom and a spermicide together, if used correctly, as instructed by the manufacturers, will give you maximum protection against pregnancy.

If you were thinking about using spermicidal lube to avoid using a condom, and you really don’t want to start a family, we’re afraid it’s not a great idea.

Spermicidal lube has some lubrication properties, but definitely not as good as if you used one of the leading products in the market. If you have a vaginal dryness issue, we recommend to use one of the products listed in the vaginal lube section.

References:

(1) Source: Trussell, James (2011). "Contraceptive efficacy". In Hatcher, Robert A.; Trussell, James; Nelson, Anita L.; Cates, Willard Jr.; Kowal, Deborah; Policar, Michael S. (eds.). Contraceptive Technology (20th revised ed.). New York: Ardent Media. pp. 779–863. ISBN 978-1-59708-004-0.ISSN 0091-9721. OCLC 781956734. Table 26–1 = Table 3–2 Percentage of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy during the first year of typical use and the first year of perfect use of contraception, and the percentage continuing use at the end of the first year. United States.