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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Vaginal Spermicides

Vaginal spermicides are a chemical method of birth control used in the vagina. There are many forms of spermicides: creams, gels, suppositories, and foams. Contraceptive sponges and some condoms also contain spermicide. Spermicides prevent pregnancy by killing sperm before they reach the uterus.

Instructions for Using Spermicides

The instructions for using each type of spermicide are different. Make sure that you follow the directions on the package carefully. Call your doctor if you have any questions. To help prevent pregnancy:

  • Put the spermicide in your vagina before you have any sexual contact.
  • Insert the applicator or suppository deep into the vagina like you would a tampon. If you use a suppository, you must wait 15 minutes before having sex. (Follow the package directions.)
  • If the spermicide has been in the vagina more than a half hour before ejaculation (release of sperm), put in more spermicide. Spermicides work only if you put more on BEFORE EACH ejaculation. This is very important.
  • Douching may make the spermicide not work as well. If you feel you need to douche, wait at least 6 to 8 hours after you have had sex.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spermicides

  1. Advantages
    • Spermicides are only 80% reliable in preventing pregnancy. When used with a condom, the reliability increases to 95%.
    • They are a cheap form of birth control.
    • They are widely available to anyone. They can be bought at your local drug or grocery store.

  2. Disadvantages
    • If you can't remember to use vaginal spermicides EVERY time you have sex, this is not a good form of birth control for you. Even if you forget just one time, you could get pregnant.
    • You could have an allergic reaction (such as itching or a rash). Stop using spermicides if you have a reaction to them and tell your doctor.
    • Spermicides do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Use condoms for protection against disease every time you have sex, even if you are also using a spermicide.

Call Your Doctor During Office Hours If:

  • You have any questions or concerns.

Written by David W. Kaplan, M.D., and the staff of the Adolescent Medicine Center, The Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems