Spermicide is a contraceptive chemical that may be applied inside the vagina to prevent pregnancy. Spermicide comes in a variety of forms, including gels, foams, creams, suppositories, or dissolvable films.

Spermicide kills or immobilizes sperm, making it difficult for the sperm to reach and fertilize an egg.

Spermicide is available in most drugstores or pharmacies and costs about $8 per package.

How to use spermicide

Spermicide must be used for each act of intercourse if used as a form of birth control or in conjunction with another form of birth control. Read the instructions that come with the specific type of spermicide for use instructions.

If using spermicide that comes with an applicator, fill the applicator with spermicide, and insert into the vagina just before intercourse. Spermicidal film or suppositories should be inserted at least 15 minutes before having intercourse, so that the spermicide can spread in the vagina.

Safety and effectiveness of spermicide

On its own, spermicide is only 71 percent to 85 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if used correctly and during each act of intercourse. It is slightly more effective when used with a barrier method, such as a condom or diaphragm.

Although spermicide is safe for most people, some may develop an allergic reaction or skin irritation in the vagina or on the penis.

Douching within eight hours of intercourse will decrease the effectiveness of the spermicide.

Benefits of spermicide

Spermicide is used at the time of intercourse only and does not change a woman’s menstrual cycle or hormones like other forms of birth control (such as the pill, patch, or shot). No prescription is necessary to purchase spermicide, which is available in drugstores.

Risks of using spermicide for birth control

Spermicide on its own is not a highly effective method of birth control, and it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like condoms do.  Spermicide can cause irritation to the skin of the penis and to the walls of the vagina This may make it easier to become infected by an STD.

Additionally, spermicide may be messy or inconvenient to use.