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Spermicide (also called nonoxynol-9 or N-9) is a chemical that is inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse.

What are examples of spermicide?

Spermicide comes in the form of:

  • Contraceptive Jelly (Gel)
  • Contraceptive Foam
  • Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF)
  • Already on some condoms
  • Foaming tablets
  • Creams
  • Suppositories
  • Sponge

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How does spermicide work?

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How effective is it?

  • Depending on how well they are used, the effectiveness of spermicides against  pregnancy ranges from 79 - 89%.
  • When used with a condom, spermicides are between 97 - 98% effective against pregnancy.
  • Condoms that are purchased with spermicide already on them do not have a sufficient amount of spermicide to prevent pregnancy. Always insert additional spermicide into the vagina.

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How do I use spermicides?

  • Spermicides need to be inserted into the vagina before intercourse.
  • The type of spermicide being used determines when (amount of time in advance) you have to insert the spermicide before sexual intercourse. The length of time varies depending on the spermicide being used.

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Where can I get spermicides?

  • Spermicides are available at drugstores without a prescription.
  • Most sexual health or birth control clinics offer them for free.

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Who can use spermicides?

  • Either female or male uses this method.
  • Anyone can use this method, however temporary irritation of the vulva or penis MAY occur.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages to using spermicide?


  • No prescription is needed.
  • No hormones, and nothing needs to be taken daily.
  • Spermicide can act as a lubricant.


  • If used frequently (for example - three times a day), spermicides may cause irritation of the vagina or penis. This could increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections . Note: some people are allergic to spermicide.
  • Must be used with a  condom cervical cap diaphragm or birth control pills for best effectiveness against pregnancy.
  • Can be messy, must be re-applied during each act of intercourse (5-15 minutes beforehand).
  • May interrupt intercourse.

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