Spermicide

What is spermicide?

A chemical product that comes in the form of a jelly, foam, or cream. It is a barrier method of birth control.

How does it work?

Spermicidal chemicals are designed to kill the sperm before they reach the uterus.

How effective is spermicide?

Although foam used correctly every time possesses a failure rate of approximately 8%, spermicidal chemicals alone are not considered an effective form of birth control. Typical use of spermicide, which is considered the way most people use it, possesses a failure rate of 26% or approximately one in four. Spermicides should be used with another barrier method of birth control: diaphragm, cervical cap, or condom. You should take a pregnancy test if you are experiencing any pregnancy symptoms.

What are the side effects or health risks of spermicides?

In few cases, allergic reaction to the chemicals in spermicides leads to itching, burning, or possibly redness.

Are spermicides reversible?

Yes. They do not have any effects on either the male or female reproductive cycle. It is possible to get pregnant immediately if it is no longer used.

How much do they cost?

Foams, jellies, or creams range in cost from approximately $7 to $18. The cost of spermicide averages approximately 25¢ per use.

What about spermicides and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)?

Spermicidal chemicals do not prevent contact of the vagina from the partner’s skin or bodily fluids. Spermicides should NOT be considered as a means of protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

What are the pros & cons of spermicides?

  • The Pros:
    • When combined with other barrier methods (condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap), the combined failure rate is between 3% – 10%
    • Doctor visits are not required
    • Easily accessible through grocery stores, drug stores, and supercenters
    • Spermicides are inexpensive and easy to carry
  • The Cons:
    • Must be inserted less than 30 minutes prior to intercourse and ideally less than 20 minutes
    • Must be inserted for each act of sexual intercourse
    • Requires another barrier method to avoid high failure rates
    • Spermicides do NOT protect against sexually transmitted diseases
Last Updated: 07/2003