6 Types of Spermicide

Spermicides are barrier birth control methods that are bought over the counter. Once inserted, these contraceptives kill sperm. Vaginal spermicides are available in several forms: spermicidal jelly, cream, foam, tablets, suppositories, sponge, and film. Spermicide is inserted into the vagina just before sex to prevent pregnancy. Although spermicide is 71-85% effective when used by itself, it is more ​cost effective when used with another method of birth control (like a condom or diaphragm).

Spermicidal Foam

Contraceptive gel


Contraceptive foam comes in an aerosol can with an applicator and is the same consistency of mousse hair-styling products. After shaking the can for at least 30 seconds, press the tip of the applicator on the nozzle of the can and press down. This fills the applicator with foam. While lying down, a woman should insert the applicator into the vagina a few inches and push the plunger to squirt out the foam. The foam is active immediately, so it should be inserted within 30 minutes of having sex. Two applications may be better than one. The foam kills the sperm while also blocking the cervix (to prevent any surviving sperm from entering the uterus). The applicator may be washed with soap and water, stored in a clean, dry place and used again.

Contraceptive Film

VCF vaginal contraceptive film is a 2X2-inch thin sheet of film (similar to wax paper) and contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9. To insert, fold it in half, then in half again, and place it on the tip of your index finger. The film should be inserted into the vagina and be placed on or near the cervix. A spermicidal film will melt into a thick gel consistency by absorbing vaginal secretions, so it will act as a barrier to immobilize sperm. VCF must be inserted at least 15 minutes before intercourse for it completely dissolve and work effectively. A new piece of a contraceptive film should be used for each sex session, and a single application is good for up to only one hour after initial insertion.

Spermicidal Jelly

Contraceptive jelly is another form of concentrated spermicide (which is a chemical that kills sperm). Jellies come in tubes and are usually used with a diaphragm or cervical cap. The spermicidal jelly is squeezed into its applicator, which is then inserted into your vagina. A woman should then push the end of the applicator to empty the jelly into the vagina (which must reach the cervix in order to be most effective). Jellies allow for immediate protection, which lasts for about 1 hour. Another dose of spermicidal jelly should be inserted if sex lasts longer than an hour or if you have sex again. When used with a diaphragm, protection lasts for up to 6 hours. Unlike spermicidal foams, films, and inserts, jelly can also provide lubrication.

Contraceptive Inserts, Tablets, or Suppositories

These methods are solid forms of concentrated spermicide that melt into a foam. Inserts or suppositories are about half an inch long and less than a quarter inch wide. The suppository needs to be inserted in the vagina (and as close to the cervix as possible). A woman must then wait 10-15 minutes, so the contraceptive insert can dissolve into a foamy substance. Suppositories may be somewhat less effective than foam, cream or gel because it is hard to know if they have fully dissolved. A new insert should be used for multiple sex acts or if more than an hour has passed. There are also foaming contraceptive tablets; these work the same way as inserts. Some women report a warm sensation in the vagina as these spermicidal tablets melt into a foam.

Spermicidal Creams and Gels

Creams and gels are used the same way as spermicidal jelly while also providing lubrication. Contraceptive creams and gels come in different textures and tend to be less likely to drip or leak. They are effective immediately by killing sperm. A woman should twist the applicator onto the end of the tube of spermicide and fill the applicator with the cream/gel. Then, twist off the applicator and insert it into the vagina (close to the cervix) and press the plunger to release the cream/gel. Gels and creams are most effective when used right before sex and should not be inserted more than 30 minutes before having sex. Advantage 24 is a spermicide gel that steadily releases nonoxynol-9, providing 24-hour protection with one dose.

Contraceptive Sponge

The sponge is a soft, round barrier device that is about two inches in diameter. It is made of solid polyurethane foam and has a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal. The sponge must first be moistened with water and then the woman inserts it into her vagina before intercourse. It covers the cervix (opening to the uterus), and it blocks sperm from entering it. The sponge also releases a spermicide that can immobilize sperm.

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