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Spermicides are chemicals placed in the vagina to kill sperm. They are used as a form of birth control.


Spermicides help prevent pregnancy. They damage and kill sperm that are placed in the woman's vagina during intercourse. They also block sperm from going into the cervical canal, or opening to the uterus. They start working when they are put in the vagina. Spermicides keep working for 6 to 8 hours after they are inserted.
Spermicides keep working for 6 to 8 hours after they are inserted. Spermicides in the United States may contain nonoxynol-9 or octoxynol-9. When are used alone for birth control, they have a 21% failure rate. They are more effective with a diaphragm or condom.
Spermicides come in many forms, including foams, jellies, tablets, and suppositories. There are many other forms of birth control that are more effective than using spermicides alone. These include:
  • diaphragms
  • female condoms
  • intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • male condoms
  • oral contraceptives
Spermicides are less effective if they are used improperly. Some important considerations include:
  • Do not use a vaginal douche for at least 6 to 8 hours after using spermicide. Douching, even with water, can rinse the spermicide out of the vagina before it has killed all the sperm.
  • Washing or rinsing the vaginal or rectal area can make the spermicide ineffective against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Follow the package instructions carefully. Be sure that the spermicide is inserted deep into the vagina.
  • Use another application of the spermicide for each episode of intercourse.
  • Wait the recommended amount of time between application of the spermicide and intercourse.
  • When using spermicide with another birth control device, make sure the package states that it is safe to use with the selected device.
  • Keep the spermicide container away from heat, cold, direct light, and moisture. Do not store it in the refrigerator, bathroom, or other damp places.
  • Do not use outdated spermicide. Throw it away when expiration date on the package has passed.
Current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that spermicides should not be relied upon for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms lubricated with spermicide are considered to be no more effective against STIs than those lubricated without spermcide.
Sometimes women and men develop allergic reactions to the spermicide. These symptoms include irritation and burning with use. It may be helpful to use another spermicide that has a lower percentage of the medicine in it. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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