Spermicides are a form of chemical contraception that can be bought over the counter from your chemist or pharmacist. They are available in the form of creams or gels. The active ingredients include nonoxynol 9 (Ortho-Crème) and octoxinol (Ortho-Gynol).
Spermicides work by killing or stopping sperm on contact thus making the sperm inactive and unable to pass through the cervix, and fertilise an egg. To be most effective, they should be used in conjunction with a barrier method of contraception such as condoms or diaphragms. In fact, they are not recommended for preventing pregnancy when used on their own.
If used as the only form of contraception, up to a quarter of women may become pregnant within a year.
Some of the advantages of spermicides are that they:
Some of the disadvantages of spermicides are that they:
You should apply the spermicides into your vagina, usually with an applicator, as high as possible, before intercourse, but not more than an hour ahead of your partner’s ejaculation. You should follow the package instructions carefully, and re-apply the spermicide if sexual intercourse is repeated or delayed. You must also wait 6-8 hours afterwards before rinsing or douching.
Last Reviewed: 01 May 2002