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Birth Control: Spermicides

Packages of contraceptive gel, foam, and film.

Spermicides help prevent pregnancy by killing sperm before they can enter the uterus. They come in many forms, including foam, jelly, film, and suppository-like inserts. These can be bought in drugstores without a prescription.

Pregnancy rates

Talk to your healthcare provider about the effectiveness of this birth control method.

Using spermicides

  • For best protection against pregnancy, use spermicides with a barrier method (condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap).

  • Apply before there is any contact between the penis and vagina.

  • Check the package for instructions on how to apply.

  • Reapply each time you have sex.

  • Don't douche or use tampons for 6 to 8 hours after using a spermicide.


  • Easy to get

  • No prescription needed

  • Either partner can apply them, so responsibility can be shared

  • Come in many forms

  • Easy to stop if you decide you want to become pregnant


  • High pregnancy rate when used alone

  • Provides little protection against sexually transmitted nfections (STIs)

  • Can interrupt sex

  • May cause minor irritation of the skin or vagina

  • May taste bad

Spermicides may not be for you

Spermicides may not be for you if:

  • You are not also using a barrier method

  • You are allergic to spermicides

  • You're not willing to interrupt lovemaking to apply them

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
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