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Spermicide is a killer; a sperm killer that is. Most spermicide contains the chemical nonoxynol-9. This is designed to immobilize and kill sperm before they reach the uterus.
Spermicide is a barrier protection form of birth control but isn't considered as effective when used alone. However, when used with other methods, such as a condom, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge or cervical cap, it makes them more effective. It’s always used with the diaphragm and cap.
Spermicide comes in many forms, including cream, gel and foam which are squirted into the vagina using an applicator. Other types include vaginal suppositories and vaginal contraceptive film, a thin sheet placed in the back of vagina.
To be effective, spermicide must be placed deep in the vagina before sexual intercourse. Some types offer protection right away. But most must be in place at least 10 to 30 minutes before sex in order to have enough time to dissolve and spread. All forms of spermicides are effective for an hour after they are inserted. Fresh spermicide needs to be inserted each time a woman has vaginal intercourse.
There are several advantages of spermicide. It doesn't require a prescription or fitting. Women don’t experience the same side effects as hormone-based birth control methods. It increases lubrication during sex. It’s relatively inexpensive and easily accessible at grocery stores, drug stores, and family planning centers. And it can be used during breastfeeding.
Spermicide doesn’t affect a woman’s reproductive cycle. It’s possible to get pregnant immediately once spermicide is no longer used.
Spermicide also has disadvantages. As mentioned, it must be inserted less than 30 minutes prior to intercourse and reinserted for each act of sexual intercourse. If not used as directed, spermicides may not form a good barrier over the cervix making it less effective. Some women complain spermicides are messy or they leak from their vaginas.
Spermicides may irritate the vagina and surrounding skin. This irritation may make it easier to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV.