What is it?

Spermicides are chemicals that make the sperm unable to function, so we say it "kills" them. They come in the form of a cream, jelly, foam or suppository.

How does it work?

Spermicides are placed inside the woman's vagina. The active ingredient in most spermicides is Nonoxynol-9. This substance also provides some protection against some STDs. Please USE condoms with them!

Spermicides also physically blocks the sperm from getting to the egg Today we know that condoms and Nonoxynol-9 are not a good combination, see "Condoms and N-9" article for more on that topic.

How do I use it?

There are several different types of spermicides. Most are similar in terms of cost and how well they work. Put the spermicide in before every act of sex. Always read the directions that come with every spermicide. If you have sex again, insert more spermicide. Do not douche for at least 6 hours after intercourse, or you could wash away the protection. They come as jellies, creams, suppositories and foam.

We are presenting this information but believe that as a teenager you should use spermicides with condoms for extra protection.

Spermicidal Jelly
Jellies come in tubes. Squeeze the product into the applicator. Put the applicator into your vagina as far as it will go. Push the end of the applicator to empty the product into the vagina. The product must reach the cervix to be effective. Jellies provide immediate protection. If you are using jelly alone, then the protection lasts for 1 hour. If sexual intercourse lasts longer than that, or if you have sex again, apply another dose. If you are using it with a diaphragm, the protection lasts for up to 6 hours. See the diaphragm section for more information. If you find that this product is irritating to you or your partner, you should try a different product or a different type of spermicide, or you may want to try a different method of birth control.

Spermicidal creams come in a tube and are used the same way as the jelly spermicides (see above).

Unwrap the suppository. Then put it as far as you can into your vagina. It should be placed as close to the cervix as possible. Suppositories take 10 to 30 minutes to be effective. The protection lasts from 10 to 30 minutes after insertion up to 1 hour after insertion. Read the product label carefully. If it has been longer than 1 hour since you put it in and you are still having sex, you should put in another suppository.

Foam comes in a small container. Shake the foam can hard, for about 20 shakes. Then, put the product in an applicator, and empty it into the vagina. The product must reach the cervix to be effective. Foams provide immediate protection, and continue to provide protection for an hour after the foam was inserted. If it has been longer than 1 hour since you put it in and you are still having sex, you should put in another dose. If you have sex again, apply another dose.

Common Questions

Can I Reuse the Applicator?
Most applicators are reusable. Wash the applicator with soap and warm water after every use.

Can I Use Spermicides When I Have My Period?
Yes, you should use spermicides during every act of sex, whether or not you are having your period.

Are Spermicides Related to Cancer or Birth Defects?
NO! In fact, they can help protect against cancer of the cervix. Research indicates that if you use spermicides when you are pregnant, spermicides do not cause birth defects in your baby.

Where Do I Get It?
Most spermicides can be purchased at drug stores and supermarkets. Don't keep spermicides in a warm place, they can dissolve.

Who Should Not Use It?
If you do not think you can use this method during every act of sex, then you should find another method. Also, if you are very worried about becoming pregnant, then you should know that spermicide alone is only somewhat effective. Use spermicides with another method, such as a condom and or diaphragm.


Can be put in ahead of time. No prescription is needed, vaginal spermicides are available over the counter without a prescription. The man's penis can remain inside the vagina after ejaculation.

May help protect against STDs. Spermicides may help protect against certain sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, this protection is not complete, and this is not the best method of protection. In particular, spermicides may not be protective against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Use condoms if you feel you are at risk.


Must be used correctly every time. If sex last longer than one hour, you must insert more. Not as spontaneous as hormonal methods. Allergy or Irritation: Some women get irritated from some brands, this will go away once you stop using the product. Messy or Embarrassing: Some women complain that the spermicides are too large to carry around in their purse. Requires some practice, learn how to use them before you need them. Unpleasant taste.


What is the failure rate?

By themselves:
Perfect-use failure rate 5% to 7%
Typical failure rate 18 - 22%

With condoms:
Perfect-use failure rate 1%
Typical failure rate 1% - 2%

You can get a much higher level of protection using a vaginal spermicide with a barrier method such as condoms or diaphragms. Spermicides should be used with condoms, or a diaphragm if you are a teenager.

Side Effects

Not common: Irritation from the spermicide in the vagina. This should go away after use. If it does not, see your health care provider, it may be caused by something else.

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