What are they?
Spermicides kill sperm. They come as a gel, foam, cream, suppository, film, or in a sponge. All are inserted into the vagina.

Some spermicides need to be in at least 15 minutes before sperm are deposited in the vagina. If it is more than an hour since spermicide was placed in the vagina, more should be added. More spermicide should also be added for repeat intercourse (deposits of sperm into the vagina).

How effective are they?
Spermicides are around 79% to 94% effective used alone.

What's good about spermicides?

  • You can buy it over the counter without a prescription.
  • It helps protect against sexually transmitted infections.

What's not good about spermicides?

  • It often causes irritation and burning of the genitals.
  • Some women think it is messy.
  • Some people think it interrupts lovemaking.

Foam is a fluffy white cream that contains sperm-killing chemicals. It comes with an applicator so it can be inserted into a woman's vagina near her cervix (the lower third of the uterus that extends into the vagina) and kill any sperm before they have a chance to swim through the cervical opening into the uterus (womb). A suppository is a tablet about the size of the end of a finger, which is placed in the vagina against the cervix with a finger. It will dissolve in the vagina and cover the opening to the uterus, working in the same way foam will.

Most drug stores carry a variety of brands of foam and suppositories to choose from. A medium size can of foam costs between $3 and $7 dollars. A package of 12 suppositories costs about $5.

Foam must be inserted not more than 15 minutes before intercourse. Foam must be used before each intercourse. To insert foam:

  1. Shake the can of spermicide.
  2. Fill the applicator with foam.
  3. Gently insert the applicator into the vagina as far back as it can go.
  4. Push the plunger to release the foam into the vagina.

A suppository should be placed against the cervix at least 10 minutes before intercourse. It will be effective for about 2 hours, but a second tablet must be used if intercourse is repeated.

Women using the foam or suppository alone will have a 3-21% chance of becoming pregnant. When using the foam or suppository with a condom, the chances of a woman becoming pregnant are reduced to 2-7%. Therefore, we recommend the use of both a spermicide and a condom.