Spermicide

WHAT IS IT?

Spermicides come in several forms, including creams, jellies, foams, and film. They typically contain a chemical called Nonoxynol-9 (N-9), which kills sperm.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Spermicide should be used in combination with another type of birth control, such as a condom or a diaphragm. If used alone, the effectiveness of spermicides range from 79% (average use) to 94% (perfect use).

HOW DO YOU USE SPERMICIDE?

Spermicidal foam, cream, or jelly can be inserted deep into the vagina using a small applicator. When used with a diaphragm or the FemCap, the spermicidal cream or jelly should be squeezed into the concave part of the diaphragm/FemCap before insertion.

Spermicide should be inserted no more than 30-60 minutes before having intercourse and you should wait several minutes after insertion before having intercourse.

Spermicidal jelly (Ortho-Gynol II contraceptive jelly) has a Nonoxynol-9 concentration of 2% and costs approximately $20. As of November 2009, Ortho-Gynol II contraceptive jelly stopped being made in Canada. Therefore, once stocks run out in stores (Sobeys and Lawtons), they will not be able to be refilled. Unfortunately, contraceptive jelly is the only form of spermicide recommended for use with diaphragms and FemCaps, so these types of birth control may no longer be a good choice.

Lawtons, Walmart, and Superstore carry Vaginal Contraceptive Foam, which has a Nonoxynol-9 concentration of 12.5%. It does not appear that this product will be taken off the market any time soon. If the store does not have any in stock, they should be able to order it from their supplier. It costs approximately $15.

Other types of spermicide include suppositories and a vaginal contraceptive film (VCF). However, these options appear to no longer be available in Nova Scotia.

The effectiveness of spermicide typically lasts for about an hour, so you will need to insert more if you have intercourse for longer than an hour. It is also recommended that you insert more spermicide each time before you start having intercourse.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF USING SPERMICIDE?

ADVANTAGES:
• when used with another form of birth control (e.g. condoms, diaphragms), spermicide decreases overall risk of becoming pregnant
• protects women against bacterial infections and pelvic inflammatory disease
• can be used as an emergency method, if inserted immediately after you have an accident with your primary contraception

DISADVANTAGES:
• spermicidal jelly is no longer being made in Canada
• it may irritate the entrance of the vagina or tip of the penis
• it can be messy
• it can be inconvenient because it has to be inserted right before having intercourse
• it’s only effective for 1 hour, so it may need to be inserted several times
• increased risk of certain sexually transmitted infections

ARE THERE ANY RISKS I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?

Almost 10 years ago, Health Canada issued a warning about Nonoxynol-9 (active ingredient in most spermicides) and increased risk of HIV transmission. Nonoxynol-9 can irritate the lining of the vagina and cause small tears, which can then become a passageway for HIV transmission. We encourage you to talk with your doctor about whether spermicide is a safe option for you.