Vaginal barrier methods prevent pregnancy by acting as a barrier to sperm so they can’t reach and fertilize one of the eggs that your ovaries produce each month. If you decide to use a vaginal barrier method, you need to use it every time you have sexual intercourse. Make sure you wash your hands before you put any of these contraceptives into your vagina. Also, women who are allergic to nonoxynol-9 should not use any vaginal barrier method that contains spermicide or works with spermicide. Women who are having frequent daily intercourse may increase their risk of getting HIV if they use spermicides because of vaginal irritation. Condoms are more effective than spermicide.

A spermicide kills or disables sperm so that it cannot cause pregnancy. Spermicides come in many different forms: foam, jelly, cream, film, and suppositories. Spermicides provide lubrication and can be used with other methods of birth control. They are most effective when used consistently and correctly with a barrier method of birth control, like a condom. Spermicides are 71-82% effective as birth control. Used alone, spermicide does not protect against HIV/AIDS.

How spermicides works ?

Spermicide can be used alone or with other birth control methods to reduce the risk of pregnancy. The lubrication it provides can increase pleasure. Insert your spermicide within a half hour before intercourse. Add more spermicide for repeated intercourse. Leave your spermicide in your vagina for 8 hours after the last act of intercourse and do not douche for 8 hours. Douching weakens spermicide. It is available in most drug stores and does not require a prescription.

Spermicide can be purchased as a cream or jelly that is applied onto a diaphragm or cervical cap or directly into the vagina via a special applicator. Spermicidal foam is also inserted directly into the vagina using an applicator. Additionally, you can find spermicide available in a suppository and as a contraceptive film. Spermicidal films are inserted directly into the vagina where they dissolve. Many women prefer this method over other types of spermicides because the films are significantly less messy to use than jellies, foams and creams. However, unlike creams and jellies, spermicidal foams, films and suppositories do not offer any additional lubrication. Some condoms may also come with a spermicidal lubricant.

Regardless of which type of spermicide you buy, they all help to prevent pregnancy in the same way: by killing off sperm. In some cases, spermicide may also work as a barrier to sperm but its primary function is to kill sperm thereby preventing it from reaching and fertilizing an egg.

How effective is it?

As with all types of contraception, it is important to insert or apply the spermicide at the right time and in exactly the right manner in order for it to work properly. Spermicide must be used each and every time you have vaginal sex. If you have sex multiple times during the course of one evening, it is necessary to reapply the spermicide each time before you have sex. Used alone, spermicides have a fairly high failure rate, ranging anywhere from 5% to as much as 59%. However, when used with other forms of birth control, spermicides may help increase their efficacy.

Side effects

You or your partner may be allergic to materials in spermicide. This can cause genital irritation, rash, or itchiness. If this happens and your spermicide has nonoxynol-9, try a spermicide without this chemical.


  • Available without a prescription.
  • Lubrication may increase pleasure.
  • Use can be part of sex play.
  • Does not affect future fertility.


  • Does not protect against HIV/AIDS.
  • Must be readily available and used prior to penetration.
  • Can be messy.
  • Can have a bad taste during oral sex.
  • Possible genital irritation.
  • When used frequently spermicides may irritate the vagina making it easier to catch HIV/STI.


Foam comes in a can and is the consistency of shaving cream. To use it, shake the can well. Place the applicator on the top of the can and press down or to the side, depending on the package directions. The plunger will rise as the applicator fills. Insert the applicator about two or three inches into your vagina and press the plunger to deposit the foam over your cervix. As you withdraw the applicator, be sure not to pull back on the plunger. This will suck some foam back into the applicator. It is effective immediately.

Creams and Jellies:

Creams are opaque and jellies are clear. They can be inserted into the vagina with an applicator and/or rubbed over the penis. Cream or jelly is typically used with a diaphragm or cervical cap. It can also be used with condoms and is effective immediately.

Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF):

VCF comes in thin squares that dissolve over the cervix. To use it, fold the film in half and then place it on the tip of a finger. Insert your finger into your vagina and put the VCF over your cervix. A dry finger and quick insertion will help the VCF stay in place and not stick to your finger. It may take about 15 minutes for the VCF to melt and become effective.


Suppositories are capsules that dissolve in the vagina. They are inserted into the vagina like a tampon and pushed up to the cervix. It takes about twenty minutes for a suppository to become effective.


The sponge is a both a spermicide and a barrier method of birth control. As a barrier, it blocks sperm from entering the cervix and uterus which prevents fertilization. Most sponges are made out of polyurethane foam and are soft to the touch. To use, wet with a small amount of water and insert into the vagina with the dimple side facing up. Push the sponge up to the cervix making certain that it is completely covered. The sponge can be worn for up to 24 hours but must remain in place for 6 hours after intercourse to be effective as birth control.

What about douching after intercourse?

Douching is not recommended after intercourse. There are no benefits and it is not safe because it can cause an increased risk in pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial vaginosis (an infection of the vagina), and ectopic pregnancy (implantation of the fertilized egg outside of the uterus). Your body makes everything it needs to keep it clean. All you should be using to clean the outside of your vagina is water and soap. However, if you decide to douche in spite of this warning, you should wait at least 6 hours after intercourse so that the spermicide does not get washed away.

Sources: Epigee, Birth Control

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