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The War on Sperm: A Guide to Spermicides

The War on Sperm:
A Guide to Spermicides



What are spermicides?
How do spermicides work?
What are the different types of spermicides?
Are spermicides reliable?
How do you use spermicides?
How do you put in contraceptive foams, creams, or jellies?
How do you put in contraceptive suppositories or film?
Can spermicides prevent sexually transmitted diseases?
Where can I buy spermicides?
Are there any side effects from spermicides?


What are spermicides?
Spermicides are medicines that kill sperm. There are many different forms — foams, suppositories, creams, jellies, and film. Spermicides are placed in the vagina where they can kill sperm on contact.

Many girls use spermicides for birth control because they don't cost very much, and you can get them without a prescription. back to top

How do spermicides work?
Spermicides kill sperm in the vagina so they can't swim up through the uterus to the fallopian tubes and fertilize an egg. Most spermicides contain the chemical nonoxynol-9. back to top

What are the different types of spermicides?
There are many kinds of spermicide. You can experiment to see which kind feels the most comfortable to you. All spermicides should be used together with condoms. That's because spermicide alone is not very good at keeping you from getting pregnant. Here's what's out there:

  • Contraceptive foam. This is a medicated cream that looks and feels a bit like shaving cream. You put it into your vagina about 15 minutes before intercourse. You use an applicator like the one you use with tampons. Foam can be a bit messy, because it can leak out of your vagina after intercourse.
  • Contraceptive suppositories. These are popular because they're easy to use. A suppository is a solid pellet of medication. It's about the length of a pen cap and a bit wider. You place a suppository in your vagina before sex. Because it's so small (much smaller than a tampon!), you never feel it. The heat of your body melts the suppository and releases the spermicide.
  • Contraceptive jelly. This is a medicated gel that you use to coat a diaphragm before you insert it. When the jelly and the diaphragm are used together, they provide much more protection than if they're used alone.
  • Contraceptive film. This is like suppositories, except that the spermicide is contained in little pieces of film that look like wax paper. You put the film in your vagina about 15 minutes before intercourse. The heat of your body melts it to release the spermicide. Contraceptive film isn't very messy because the spermicide eventually just melts away.

If you have intercourse more than once, you need to put more spermicide in before each time. The spermicide can become ineffective as more sperm enters the vagina. back to top

Are spermicides reliable?
Spermicides are not a very reliable method of birth control. They only work about 80% of the time. But when spermicides are used together with a condoms or a diaphragm they work much better to prevent pregnancy. back to top

How do you use spermicides?
All spermicides must be placed high up in the vagina, near the cervix. The actual method depends on the type of spermicide. back to top

How do you put in contraceptive foams, creams, or jellies?
You insert contraceptive foams, creams, or jellies with an applicator like the one you use for tampons. Here are the steps:

  • Attach the applicator to the foam, cream, or jelly. You do this by twisting the applicator onto the tip of the container, just like putting the cap on a tube of toothpaste.
  • Fill the applicator by squeezing the tube or pressing the button on the can.
  • Squat down or put your foot up on the toilet or tub, whichever is more comfortable.
  • Hold the applicator with your thumb and middle finger, and insert it far into your vagina. The goal is to get the spermicide as close to your cervix as possible. Your cervix is deep inside your vagina.
  • Push on the applicator plunger. This will push the spermicide into your vagina. back to top
How do you put in contraceptive suppositories or film?
You insert contraceptive suppositories or film with your fingers. Here's what you do:
  • Take the suppository or film out of its wrapper.
  • If you're using film, fold it into the size of a postage stamp.
  • Hold the folded film or suppository between your first two fingers, and insert it deep into your vagina.
It is important to insert suppositories or film 10 to 15 minutes before intercourse. This gives them time to melt. Don't insert any spermicides more than 30 minutes before intercourse. back to top

Can spermicides prevent sexually transmitted diseases?
Spermicides do seem to lower the risk of getting gonorrhea and chlamydia. But they're not nearly as effective as condoms. It's unclear if spermicides lower the risk of getting other STDs, like herpes, syphilis or HIV. Using condoms and spermicide together will protect you better against those diseases. back to top

Where can I buy spermicides?
You can buy spermicides at any drugstore and at many supermarkets. You don't need a prescription to buy them. back to top

Are there any side effects from spermicides?
Some girls can have an allergic reaction or irritation of the vagina when they use spermicides. Other girls may get more vaginal infections. back to top

 
 
 
Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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Popping Pills to Prevent Pregnancy: What You Need to Know About Birth Control Pills
Condom Sense: Everything You Wanted to Know About Condoms and Spermicide
The One-Shot Deal: Depo-Provera
Diaphragms: A Barrier Against Pregnancy