Spermicides can be found under different form such as: cream (to be used only with the diaphragm), gel, foam, and film or suppository. They are primarily made of a chemical called nonoxynol-9, destroying sperm when in contact. It is inserted in front of the cervix, inside the vagina but has to be used with other contraceptive methods, such as the condom because when used by itself, it is not very effective.

How does it work?

  • Nonoxynol-9 is a surfactant that destroys the sperm cell membrane.
  • Spermicides are sold over-the-counter as cream, gel, foam, and film or suppository.
  • The spermicide film should be inserted in the vagina 15 minutes before having sex and another film should be inserted right before the sexual intercourse.
  • The foaming spermicide has to be inserted in the vagina with an applicator and is effective immediately but will only last one hours after being applied. New foam has to be applied before each new intercourse.


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  • Vaginal spermicides are considered one of the least effective contraceptive method. The failure rate in its theoretical first year use is 18% vs 28% in actual use.
  • For better effectiveness, spermicides should always be used with another barrier contraceptive method such as the diaphragm or the sponge.
  • Non-hormonal
  • More effective when used along barrier contraceptive methods
  • Can protect against bacterial infections and pelvic inflammatory diseases
  • Low effectiveness when used by itself
  • The use of spermicide can be messy
  • Have to inserted only before sex as the effectiveness is timed to one hour
  • Can irritate the vagina and the tip of the penis
  • Can increase the risk of HIV transmission
  • Does not protect against STIs