Updated: JANUARY 9, 2018

Spermicide is a contraceptive substance which immobilizes and kills sperm. It is applied inside the vagina before intercourse to help prevent pregnancy.

Spermicides have been used throughout history from as early as 1850 BC when the Ancient Egyptians used a mix of crocodile dung and fermented dough to prevent pregnancy.

Modern spermicides are clear, unscented, and unflavored substances with lubricating properties. They may take the form of gels, films, creams, suppositories, and foams. Most contain the active ingredient nonoxynol-9.

More About Spermicide

Many people like spermicide because it is affordable, simple, and convenient. It can be purchased from drugstores and some supermarkets without a prescription. It does not affect a woman’s natural hormones, and can be used by breastfeeding women. Some couples incorporate the insertion of spermicide into their foreplay.

However, when used alone, spermicide typically fails in 28% of cases making it the least reliable form of birth control. It is more effective when used in conjunction with barrier contraceptives, such as condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges. The use of spermicide improves the effectiveness of these contraceptive methods.

When used correctly, spermicide is said to fail in 18% of cases. Women can boost the effectiveness of their spermicide by carefully following the instructions included. Spermicide inserted deep into the vagina will block the cervix, making it impossible for sperm to pass through. This is more effective than simply inhibiting the motion of sperm which is what spermicide inserted closer to the vaginal opening will do.

Women generally lie down, or squat, then apply spermicide with their fingers or an applicator. Women are often instructed to wait 10 to 15 minutes before having intercourse. Spermicide typically remains effective for an hour after insertion. Women should reapply spermicide to have sex again even if it is within the one hour timeframe.

It’s important to note that while spermicide can prevent pregnancy, it provides no protection from sexually transmitted infections. In fact, if spermicide is used twice or more during the day, women have a greater chance of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Most couples experience no side effects using spermicide, but some men and women may suffer temporary skin irritations.


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