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Spermicide effectiveness

Updated on February 18, 2011

In this article you are going to find information about spermicide effectiveness against pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and you will find some WHO and CDC recommendations related to them.

Spermicides have been on the market for more than 50 years. Most widely used spermicide today (and the only one in US) is nonoxynol-9. Compared to a wide range of “female contraception” methods, “male contraception” comes only to condoms and spermicides. About spermicide effectiveness, there are two main questions:

- Do they protect against STDs?

- Do they protect against pregnancy?

So, let’s see…

Spermicide effectiveness against STDs

Some studies in the past show that spermicides provide some protection against certain STDs. More recent study (conducted by World Health Organization, 2002) show that spermicides don’t protect or reduce risk of any of the STDs. Because of that, FDA requires that any product that contain spermicide, has a label that clearly shows the warning statement that spermicides do not provide any protection against STDs. Spermicides could, actually, increase the risk of STD transmission by irritating the epithelium of vulva, vagina, anus and penis.


Spermicide effectiveness against STDs= no protection

Spermicide effectiveness in preventing pregnancy

Spermicides can be used alone (in a form of foam, jelly, film, creams or suppositories) or combined (with a diaphragm, cervical cap or sponge).  Spermicides can be found in some brands of condoms or lubricants as well. Spermicide destroys spermatozoids membrane and that way prevents conception. One dose of spermicide ranges between 52mg and 150mg, depending of a product.

Spermicides have been on the market for more than 50 years. Most studies related to spermicide effectiveness used alone don’t fulfill contemporary standards of medical research and analysis, so their conclusions can’t be taken as true. Some studies have been conducted in a last 10-15 years and their conclusions will be mentioned in this article. A study conducted in 1999 that compared the effectiveness of Vaginal Contraceptive Film and foaming tablets, show that, within six months, 25 percent of women using film and 28 percent women that have been using foaming tablets got pregnant. One other study show that spermicide failure rate in women who used it combined with diaphragm was 21 percent. That means that 21 percent of the women who used diaphragm combined with spermicides got pregnant (compared to 29 percent of the women who used diaphragm without spermicide). There is no evidence that condoms lubricated with spermicide are more effective in preventing pregnancy then the one without spermicides on their surface.

Some people use “natural” spermicides as a method of contraception (vinegar, lemon juice, some “do it yourself” recipes etc.). However there is no study that show how effective they are.


Spermicide effectiveness against pregnancy varies between 70 and 80 percent, depending of the form (foam, jelly, film, creams, suppositories, diaphragm, cervical cap or sponge).

Spermicides- to use or not to use?

World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) says:

-          Women that are in a low risk of STDs can use spermicides as contraception method.

-          Women that have multiple vaginal intercourses per day, should consider other forms of contraception.

-          Spermicides should not be used as a protection against STDs, condoms are the best protection against STDs.

-          Spermicides should not be used during anal intercourse, because they can irritate rectum epithelium, and that way, make a path for infection.

Spermicide effectiveness is far from perfect, and my opinion is that they are not reliable method of contraception. However, combined with other contraceptive methods, they make a good contraception strategy. If you decide to use them, keep in mind that they don’t protect you against STDs, so use them only with a trusted partner. 


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