Guide to Spermicide

What Is Spermicide?

Spermicide is a chemical that prevents pregnancy by killing sperm so they can’t fertilize an egg. The only spermicide available in the U.S. is nonoxynol-9 (N-9). You can get it as a foam, jelly, tablet, cream, suppository, or dissolvable film. You can use spermicide by itself or combine it with other methods. Some condoms have spermicide.

How Do You Use Spermicide?

It varies with the type you have. Follow the directions on the package. Most types tell you to:

  • Insert the spermicide deep into your vagina
  • Wait 10-15 minutes before you have sex
  • Don’t wait any longer than 30-60 minutes to have sex
  • Leave it in for at least 6 hours after sex

How Effective Is Spermicide?

Although you can use spermicide alone, it works better when you combine it with a condom or diaphragm. Spermicide used alone is about 70% to 80% effective, but when used together and properly, spermicide and  condoms are about 97% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Does Spermicide Protect Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

No. Also, spermicide may irritate your genitals. This can make it easier for you to get HIV and other STDs. If your penis or vagina gets irritated, stop using the spermicide and see your doctor.

Other than not having sex, condoms are the best way to prevent STDs. Spermicide will help prevent pregnancy, especially if a condom breaks or spills.

Where Can I Buy Spermicide?

You can get products with spermicide at most drugstores and supermarkets. You don’t need a prescription  Follow the package instructions carefully. 

How Much Do Spermicides Cost?

It varies by type, but it ranges from 50 cents to $1.50 per use or about $8 per package.

Is there another option?

A new non-hormonal gel called Phexxi is designed to use the body’s own vaginal environment to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. Like spermicide, it needs to be inserted into your vagina before sex. While spermicides block the entrance to the cervix and slow the sperm, Phexxi works to change the pH level of the vagina during sex, effectively killing the sperm. It is considered 86-93% effective and you would need a prescription for this.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on October 05, 2020



Family Planning Services of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Spermicide.”

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