By Laura Beil
Christen Childs woke up on September 12, 2009, in the pitch dark of early morning with what she thought was a pulled muscle in her leg. She reached down to massage the cramp, trying to fathom how her left calf could be so achingly sore when she hadn't made it to the gym in weeks. This was a Saturday — by Monday, her leg was swollen and hot, and when she tried to stand, jolts of pain shot up to her spine. She consulted her brother-in-law, a doctor, and he told her to go to the ER immediately...
When using a jelly, foam, or cream, you can then
have sex right away.
A spermicide film or suppository is inserted
deep into the vagina using a finger and is placed close to the cervix. Film or
suppositories must be inserted at least 15 minutes before having sex to allow the spermicide to spread in the
One application of spermicide is necessary for each act of
A nonprescription method
Spermicide use does not
require a prescription or a visit to a health professional. Spermicide is sold
in drugstores, grocery stores, and family planning clinics.
and a condom used together provide a reasonable level of
birth control without a prescription. Using spermicide alone is not recommended
because it offers poor pregnancy prevention and does not protect against
sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, the
nonoxynol-9 in most spermicides may increase the risk of getting HIV/AIDS from
an infected partner.
Effectiveness in preventing pregnancy
effective strength spermicide contains at least 100 mg
of nonoxynol-9 per dose. You are more likely to get pregnant if you use a
weaker spermicide. There is no difference in effectiveness between various
spermicide types, such as gel, film, or suppository.1
Typical use failure rate includes all
possible users, including people who are careless and those who use a method
perfectly every time. Perfect use failure rate includes
only people who use a method perfectly every time.
Spermicide used alone has a high failure rate
of 29% for typical users. This means that in 1 year, 29 out of 100 women who
use spermicide as their only method of birth control get pregnant. The perfect
use failure rate is still high at 18% (18 out of 100 women).2
Spermicide used with another barrier method
(condoms, diaphragm, or cervical cap) is more effective at preventing pregnancy
than spermicide alone. For example, spermicide with a diaphragm has an average
failure rate of 16%. This means that in a year, 16 out of 100 women who use a
diaphragm and spermicide together get pregnant. The perfect use failure rate is
much lower, at 6% (6 out of 100 women).2
Vaginal douching is not considered a birth control method
even if it is done with spermicides. Douching after intercourse does not
prevent sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes, where fertilization takes
Effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Spermicides used alone do not protect against STIs,
including infection with the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). You must use a
condom for the best possible STI protection.
Most spermicides contain a
chemical called nonoxynol-9 (N9). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
warns that N9 in vaginal contraceptives and spermicides may irritate the lining
of the vagina or rectum. This may increase the risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an