Spermicides

The history of spermicides reaches centuries before Christ. Therefore they are thought to be one of the oldest methods of contraception. Nowadays, spermicides have been used for about 40 years since they have been introduced into market. They are a rather popular form of birth control, most frequently used in combination with other birth control methods . Spermicides are quite cheap, easy to purchase and comfortable to use.

What are spermicides?

They are chemical compounds, mostly containing nonoxynol-9, octoxynol-9, menfegol or benzalkonium chloride. They protect against pregnancy when inserted into vagina in a right way and time. The effectiveness of spermicides lies upon their ability to kill sperm so that it is not able to reach and fertilize an egg or ovum.

The companies that produce spermicides have introduced various types and forms of these chemical compounds. Generally, all the types differ only in composition and form of application whereas their action in birth control is all the same — in destroying or immobilizing sperm. There are spermicidal creams and jellies mainly used to apply on a diaphragm or cervical cap. They can also be used alone when applied into the vagina with the help of a special applicator. Although they are rather messy but also adds some lubrication needed for breastfeeding mothers or when a condom is used for birth control. Spermicidal foam is very similar to creams or jellies and is also applied with a special plunger-type applicator.

How to use spermicides?

Newer and more comfortable forms of spermicides are melting suppositories or foaming tablets. These should be inserted by hand or with an applicator into the vagina each time a few hours before sexual intercourse. They then melt or dissolve in the vagina and provide protection against pregnancy. The newest forms of spermicides are contraceptive films, which are thin spermicidal squares. These are very comfortable to use and should be applied over the cervix before vaginal intercourse. All these methods are easier to use but, unlike creams or jellies, do not provide any lubrication. Also there are male condoms that come in packets with spermicide already applied on a condom.

The efficiency of spermicides varies from 5% up to 60% failure in birth control. The reason for that is a high dependence upon the proper use of this method of contraception and whether an additional method of birth control is used. Any form of a spermicide should be used before the penis comes any near the vagina. Also spermicidal compounds should be applied once again if people are having sex multiple times in the course of one session. Proper use of spermicides increases the effectiveness of the method. Also when used with additional means of contraception, such as male condoms, diaphragms or cervical caps , spermicides have a higher efficiency in protecting against unexpected pregnancy.

Possible side-effects of spermicides

Although, spermicides are cheap and widely used they also have a few side effects that should be explained. Spermicidal compounds, containing nonoxynol-9 or others, were found to cause irritation of vagina in many women. In addition, spermicides may cause allergic reactions. The main reason for that is nonoxynol-9. Spermicides may irritate not only the vagina but also the penis. They may cause ulcerations of genital tract of both males and females. When used in anal sex spermicidal substances cause sores of rectal lining. This results in enhanced risk of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, spermicides have the ability in changing the pH of the vagina which may cause yeast infections. They were also found to predispose urinary infections or inflammation in women.

The possibility for side effects of spermicides increases with the increased amount of spermicide used. Some doctors recommend using any type of spermicidal methods of birth control not more than three times a month. Therefore this type of birth control is mainly chosen by people, who have infrequent sexual life.
There are no restrictions for the use of spermicides. Breastfeeding women may use this method, since it does not have any effect on a baby. Women, who do not wish to use hormonal contraception, also may choose spermicidal products for birth control. Women may use these products during all their reproductive years and become fertile immediately upon discontinuation of use.

However, men and women who develop allergy after use of spermicides should choose a more appropriate method for birth control. Women, who have the history of vaginal sores, urinary infections or inflammation, should be recommended another form of contraception. And finally, people who have multiple sexual partners and increased risk for STD’s are strictly not recommended using spermicides since they may increase the chance of getting sexually transmitted diseases.

In the early 80’s spermicides were thought to protect against some sexually transmitted diseases or infections and even HIV. This was due to investigations which showed that nonoxynol-9, a chemical substance found in many spermicides, was able to destroy Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea and HIV. However, later studies on humans in practice revealed that spermicides not only do not add any protection against sexually transmitted diseases but may even increase the risk for STD’s and HIV. Spermicides may cause ulcers or lesions of genital tract and anus and this increases the possibility for microorganisms to enter the human body.  Therefore, people with increased risk of STD’s are no longer recommended using spermicides for birth control. Also, male condoms prelubricated with spermicides were found to have no additional protection nor against pregnancy neither against STD’s and should no longer be recommended. If you choose spermicidal products for birth control do not forget to use a male condom for protection against sexually transmitted diseases.