We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Spermicide is a chemical that destroys sperm and reduces the chance of pregnancy. It is a contraceptive substance that a person can insert inside their vagina. There are different spermicide options, including creams, gels, and films. People can use them alone or in combination with other barrier birth control methods, such as condoms.

This article explores what spermicide is in more detail, the different forms a person can use, and the companies that stock them. It also explores some frequently asked questions and alternative products.

Spermicide is a type of barrier contraception that prevents sperm from reaching an egg. Most spermicides contain the chemical nonoxynol-9, which damages sperm. Typically, an individual inserts spermicide in their vagina, where it forms a barrier that slows and kills sperm, preventing it from entering the uterus. It is available without a prescription and comes in different forms, such as creams, foams, gels, films, and suppositories.

Evidence suggests that when people use it alone, spermicides are among the least effective types of birth control. Therefore, many experts recommend using other forms of barrier methods, such as condoms or diaphragms, in addition to spermicides. For example, when people use them together correctly, the pregnancy rate for spermicide and condoms is less than 1%.

Additionally, it is advisable that individuals use spermicides and condoms together, as spermicides alone do not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Spermicide comes in different forms and characteristics. Some include the below.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Films

A spermicidal film, or vaginal contraceptive film (VCF), consists of a thin sheet of film that an individual folds in quarters and in half again before inserting into the vagina. It acts as a barrier that absorbs vaginal secretions, and as a result, it melts into a thick gel. People should insert the film at least 15 minutes before engaging in sexual intercourse.

Some places that stock spermicidal films include CVS.

This VCF costs $16.99, and people can add up to six packages to their order. The pharmacy recommends individuals ensure their hands are dry before inserting the film and use only one piece before each act of intercourse.

According to the CVS Pharmacy website, individuals should see a medical professional if they experience irritation or burning in their genital area.

The website accepts payments with the help of Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Foams

Contraceptive foams come in aerosol cans and an applicator. People need to shake the can first then fill the applicator with the spermicide. They then insert it into the vagina and push the plunger to release the foam. Foams are immediately active, and individuals should insert them less than 1 hour prior to sexual intercourse.

Walmart stocks a vaginal contraceptive foam that contains 13 applications. It weighs 0.16 lb and comes with the following dimensions:

  • length: 1.5 inches (in)
  • width: 2.25 in
  • height: 5.5 in

Walmart also accepts both HSA and FSA payments.

Suppositories

These are solid forms of concentrated spermicide that melt into a foam after insertion inside the vagina. People should use a new insert every time they engage in sexual intercourse. Those who use spermicidal suppositories should wait 10–15 minutes before having sex to allow the product to melt.

Online companies that offer vaginal suppositories and tablets for contraception use include Instacart.

Instacart stocks Encare’s vaginal contraceptive inserts. The package comes with 12 individually wrapped inserts. According to the label, the inserts do not cause any hormonal side effects. Instacart also has a smartphone app that is available for Apple and Android devices.

Before using a spermicide, it is advisable for people to check the expiry date and carefully read any instructions regarding how to use it, when to use it, and how long it is effective. Generally, individuals should attempt to insert spermicide into the vagina, close to the cervix, roughly 10–15 minutes before sexual intercourse.

The insertion method may vary slightly with different forms of spermicide, but they typically come with an applicator, so people can lie down, squat, or put one foot on a chair and insert it. Most spermicides are only effective for 1 hour after insertion. A person should also reinsert spermicide for each act of penetrative sex.

It is also advisable that people use spermicide together with another barrier form of birth control, such as a condom.

Some frequently asked questions about spermicide may include the below.

What are the benefits of using spermicides?

Some benefits of spermicides include the below.

  • hormone-free
  • no doctor visits required
  • lubrication can increase sexual pleasure
  • reversible method, as people can stop using it if they want to get pregnant
  • safe for people who are breastfeeding

Most spermicides are also cheaper than other birth control methods and are available in many stores.

Does spermicide protect against STIs?

Spermicides do not offer protection against STIs. With this in mind, it is advisable to use spermicide together with condoms, as this can reduce the transmission risk of STIs and also reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Are there any side effects?

Spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 can irritate the genital area if a person uses it several times a day on sensitive skin. In some cases, this damage to the genital area may increase the chance of contracting an STI. If irritation occurs, consider switching brands or speak with a doctor to discuss other birth control methods.

Other reversible products that a person can use to reduce the chance of pregnancy include:

  • Levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD): This is a T-shaped device that a doctor places inside the uterus, where it releases the hormone levonorgestrel every day to prevent pregnancy. Evidence suggests that fewer than 1 in 100 people become pregnant with an IUD in place. People can remove it after 3–12 years.
  • Implant: A thin rod that a medical professional can insert under the skin of the person’s upper arm. It releases progestin, allowing the cervical mucus to thicken, preventing the egg from leaving the ovary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that fewer than 1 out 100 people become pregnant during the first year of using the implant.
  • Combined oral contraceptives: These are available with a prescription and contain estrogen and progestin. Doctors may recommend that individuals take one pill at the same time every day.

Spermicide is a reversible form of birth control that can lower the chance of pregnancy. It is a chemical that inactivates sperm, preventing it from reaching an egg. These are available in foam, suppository, and film products.

However, spermicide is not the most effective form of contraception and does not offer protection from STIs. Therefore, many experts recommend using spermicide in combination with other birth control methods, such as condoms.

Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of these applications. Nobody at MNT has evaluated these apps for medical accuracy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.