Spermicide is a birth control option that you can combine with other methods for maximum protection against pregnancy.
Last updated: February 2016.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Remember to always talk to your health provider before making any decisions about birth control methods.
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.
(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.