Vaginal spermicides are products such as foam, jelly, cream, suppositories or film that are inserted deep into the vagina on or near the cervix shortly before sexual intercourse. Most of these products contain nonoxynol-9, a chemical that kills sperm on contact. To be effective, a spermicide must be used every time intercourse occurs.
We recommend that vaginal spermicides always be used with condoms.
Vaginal spermicides should be inserted into the vagina shortly before intercourse. They typically remain effective for about 1 hour. Another dose should be inserted if more than 1 hour has elapsed between insertion and intercourse.
Each product has its own individual instructions for use. Follow directions on the package.
The packaging information may mention or even recommend douching. However, we do not recommend douching. Douching has been associated with an increased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy. The vagina naturally cleans itself. Washing the genitals with mild soap and rinsing with plenty of warm water is usually all that is needed. Some women may feel more comfortable wearing a panty liner if there is any vaginal discharge.
Women and men can be allergic to or have other skin problems from vaginal spermicides. If this happens, sometimes switching products may help. Try a less concentrated spermicide or a product containing octoxynol if you are sensitive to nonoxynol-9.
If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.
Authored by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff
Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff, January 2014