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Birth Control: Spermicides

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.

Packages of contraceptive gel, foam, and film.

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 infections (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 M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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