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“Spermicide” describes different creams, films, foams, gels and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.


If you've got no other options
The failure rate of spermicide on its own is pretty high (29 percent for typical use).

“Boost” another method
You can use spermicide to make another method (like condoms) more effective.

No prescription necessary
If you can't make it to the doctor (or don't want to), you can always use spermicide. It's available at most drug stores and supermarkets. Why not pick up a pack of condoms while you're at it?

Some people are allergic
If you get irritated using spermicide, you're probably allergic to it. Unfortunately, all spermicides and contraceptive gels sold in the United States contain the same active ingredient, Nonoxynol-9. If you’re allergic to that, this method (and condoms with spermicidal lubricant) won’t work for you.

You’re confident your partner is HIV-free.
Women who have a high risk of exposure to HIV shouldn’t use this method. Nonoxynol-9 causes changes in your vagina that can make you more susceptible to HIV. If there is any chance your partner has HIV use a condom.

Side Effects

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone's different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

  • Easy to use and convenient to purchase
  • Doesn't affect your hormones
  • No prescription necessary
  • Can be used while breastfeeding

The Negative

  • Can be a little messy and/or leak out of your vagina
  • Might irritate your vagina or your partner's penis
  • Some people are allergic to spermicide
  • All spermicides sold in the U.S. contain Nonoxynol-9, which can cause irritation (especially if you use it more than once a day). That can lead to an increased risk of HIV and STI transmission.

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