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Spermidices include contraceptive foams, creams, gels, films and suppositories. Spermicides must be placed in the vagina at least 10 minutes before intercourse so that they can spread and fill the vaginal space. They are effective for up to 1 hour but must be reapplied with each intercourse. Spermicides are inexpensive and easily purchased at drug and grocery stores without a prescription.
How Do They Work?
Spermicides are placed deep up into the vagina using an applicator (similar to inserting a tampon). The spermicide forms a thick liquid or foam that slows the migration of the sperm. Then a chemical in the spermicide immobilizes the sperm preventing it from traveli ng into the uterus to fertilize an egg.
If 100 couples use spermicides correctly as their only form of birth control, about 18 of them will become pregnant within a year. In practice, about 29 couples will experience a pregnancy using only spermicides. The effectiveness of spermicides is improved if they are used with condoms, diaphragms or the cervical cap (discussed elsewhere in Birth Control).
The advantages to spermicides for contraceptive are:
There are few disadvantages to spermicides. Some women believe they are messy. Also, proper application is important for effectiveness.
Some men or women may be allergic to creams or gels, or to the active ingredient (nonoxyl-9) and may experience irritation with spermicides. Changing brands may eliminate this problem.
Couples who are allergic to any of the ingredients in a spermicide should try a different brand or use a method that does not require spermicides.