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What is spermicide?

Spermicide is a type of contraceptive that kills sperm and stops them from moving and ultimately reaching your egg to fertilise it. The chemical nonoxynol-9 is used in spermicides to prevent the sperm entering the uterus. Spermicide comes in different forms including:

  • creams
  • gels
  • foams
  • suppositories (soft tablets that you place inside your vagina and they melt into a cream)

How do you use spermicide?

How you use a spermicide will depend on the type of spermicide you have chosen. 

More generally before you have sex you will need to insert a spermicide deep into your vagina using either your fingers or the applicator that is included in the packet. Most spermicides are not effective straight away and you may have to wait up to an hour before you can have sex. Always check the customer leaflet included in the pack to find out the exact time that you will need to wait in order to be protected.

If you are planning on having sex more than once you will need to insert more spermicide, however using spermicide several times a day can cause irritation. This could also increase your risk of catching an STI so it is advised that you use condoms to protect yourself.

Make sure to read the patient leaflet that will be included in the spermicide package before you use spermicide. 

How well do spermicides work?

Spermicides can be used on their own as an effective method of contraception as long as they are used correctly every time. However they work best if they are combined with another form of birth control such as condoms. Using condoms will also help to protect you against catching STIs.

What are the side effects of spermicide?

The chemical nonoxynol-9 that is used in spermicides, to make them effective, can cause irritation to the sensitive genital area. This irritation can be increased if you're using spermicides several times a day. This irritation to the vaginal tissue can increase your risk of contracting STIs including HIV, as it gives them easier access to your body by entering through the irritated tissue.

Side effects are rare, however if they occur it is best that you visit your GP or a nurse at your local sexual health clinic. They will be able to offer advice and treatment.

Rare side effects:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pain in the bladder or abdomen
  • Needing to frequently urinate
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal irritation, redness and dryness

Where can I get spermicide?

You can purchase spermicides in your local pharmacy or online, as you don’t need a prescription to buy this form of birth control. Spermicides may also be available at your nearest supermarket.

Will spermicide protect me from STIs?

No, it won't protect you from catching an STI. Using condoms and other barrier methods during sexual intercourse and activity will help to protect you against STIs.

Can I use a condom while using a spermicide?

Yes, spermicide won't damage condoms. When used together they can help to protect you from unwanted pregnancies and STIs.