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Spermicides

A way to help the effectiveness of contraceptive methods is spermicide.

Spermicides contain chemicals that destroy the sperm, thereby preventing sperm from fertilising an egg. Most spermicides use the chemical nonoxynol 9 and are available in many forms, such as foam, gels, creams or pessaries.

Do spermicides protect against sexually transmitted infections?

It was initially thought that spermicides offered protection against some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). But studies show spermicides do not appear to prevent STIs. Frequent use of spermicides containing nonoxynol 9 may actually cause irritation and small tears of the genital tissue, allowing for easier transmission of HIV and other STIs. In other words, using nonoxynol 9 may actually increase the chances of contracting a STI. If irritation of the vagina or penis develops, it is recommended that you discontinue use and get advice from a doctor or nurse.

The only way to prevent getting an STI is not to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. However, for those individuals choosing to have sexual intercourse, condoms provide the best protection from most STIs.

How effective are spermicides?

Although spermicides can be used alone, health experts say they shouldn’t be used on their own because they’re not effective enough to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

The Family Planning Association (FPA) advises against using additional spermicide with condoms. The FPA also advises against using condoms that have been pre-lubricated with spermicide. This is because of the concerns regarding STI risk and spermicide use. However, the FPA continues to advise using spermicide with diaphragms and caps to make these methods more effective in protecting against pregnancy. When used together and correctly, the most effective diaphragms or caps and spermicides can be 92% to 96% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Where can I get spermicides?

Spermicides are available without a prescription at pharmacies. Follow the package instructions carefully.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 18, 2016

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