A Complete Guide To Spermicidal Lube

Spermicide is one of the earliest methods of birth control and comes in several forms. The first use, of what would be considered a spermicide, dates back to 1850 BCE in Egypt. It was a mixture of crocodile poo and fermented dough. What a combination! Can you imagine the smell? It’s a wonder sex happened at all with that concoction.

Around 1906, the first spermicidal jelly was developed, and in the 1950s, nonoxynol-9 was discovered. It is what is currently used in most spermicides of today.

What is Spermicide

Spermicides contain the chemical, nonoxynol-9, which is, essentially, a sperm killer. The spermicide reduces the sperms mobility and it blocks the sperm from reaching the cervix.

The spermicide product is inserted into the vagina and is typically used with a barrier contraceptive like condom. You should always use spermicide with diaphragm and cervical cap.

How Effective is Spermicide

Spermicide is not one of the most effective methods of birth control and is best used in conjunction with another product such as condoms and cervical caps.

When spermicide used correctly every time as described, the chances of becoming pregnant are 18 out of a 100. When not used perfectly every time, the rate rises to 29 out of 100.

When used with condom, this failure rate reduces to 3% only, as good as oral contraceptive pills.

How To Use Spermicide

It is always a good idea to read the instructions as each type of spermicide is used differently.

  • The spermicide product is inserted into the vagina and is typically used with a barrier contraceptive.
  • Once inserted into vagina, the person needs to wait 15 minutes for it to dissolve, before proceeding with sex
  • Once the spermicide is dispensed, the sexual act must be completed within an hour, otherwise, reapplication is necessary.
  • This is not a product that can be applied ahead of time in anticipation of sexual intercourse happening later in the night. A one hour window is all you have available.
  • After sex, the female cannot wash or douche for 6-8 hours, so as not to negate the effectiveness of the product.

Types of Spermicide

Spermicide comes in several forms; creams, gels, foams, films and suppositories. All of these products would require reapplication after one hour or if more than one intercourse event will take place.

  • Spermicidal Lubes - are gels and creams that contain chemical to kill sperms [gels are clear & creams are opaque]. They usually contain 1% to 5% spermicidal chemical. They need to be inserted into vagina prior to sex. They come with plunger applicator for dispensing product. Spermicidal gels can be used with diaphragms, caps and condoms.
  • Spermicidal foam - Foams come in a can with applicator which you inserts into vagina and product is dispensed. It has consistency of shaving cream and contains higher percentage of spermicidal chemical.
  • Vaginal Contraceptive Films VFC -  It is a small square of clear film which you need to insert into vagina. Once inside, it turns into gel that contains Nanoxol-9, sperm killer chemical.
  • Spermicidal Condoms - are usually pre-coated with spermicidal gel instead of personal lubricant. Using a condom and a spermicide reduces chances of getting pregnant significantly. However, Its better to use separate spermicidal product along with condom than "spermicidally lubricated" condoms, as they usually contain fewer amount of spermicide.

Pros and Cons of Spermicide

Benefits of Spermicides

  • Easy to use
  • Available without prescription/readily available [OTC Over The Counter]
  • Affordable
  • Does not interfere with hormones
  • Can improve effectiveness of other forms of birth control
  • Doubles as a lube

Cons of Spermicides

  • Effectiveness 71%-82% - Not one of the best contraceptive method when used alone.
  • Dosen't protect against sexually transmitted disease like HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Infact, reseach by WHO suggests that it may increases risk of HIV/STDs in women using these products frequently.
  • Users can be allergic
  • Prolonged use has been found to damage cervical and vaginal mucosa
  • Can irritate vagina and penis after use
  • Must wait several hours before washing

Reviews of Spermicidal Products

Spermicides don't need doctor's prescription and easily available over the counter. You can buy it in local pharmacy, discount stores like Walmart, CVC or online shops like amazon.

Here are some of the spermicidal brands we recommend...

1. Options Conceptrol Contraceptive Gel

Options Conceptrol Gel comes as 10 pre-filled spermicidal applicators. With the pre-filled applicator, there is no need to load product prior to dispensing.

This feature makes it a breeze to use and because they are individually wrapped, they are portable and perfect to pop in your purse. Take care to avoid extremely hot and cold temps, so as not to negatively affect the active ingredients.

The effective rate of this product is typical when measured against the normal success rate of other spermicides. Couples have indicated that after long term use, there are no pregnancies.

Because this product is ready to go, there is no waiting period as there would be with a suppository or film product. As with any spermicide, however, there is a one-hour active window. If you wait longer to have intercourse, you will need to administer another applicator. If you take part in intercourse more than once per night, you will have to reapply. This is regardless of the time elapsed since the spermicide was first inserted.​

There have been instances where the product has caused a burning sensation in both males and females after use. And some indications are that, even though the product is clear, it can leave a white residue on the exposed skin. This is not a tasty gel, so using this when performing oral on your partner is not advised.​

Overall, this product appears to score high marks with users of both sexes, and is a reliable form of birth control.​

Things We Liked

  • Easy to use
  • Ready to go, No waiting period
  • 4% Nonoxynol-9

Things We Didn't Like

  • Taste bad
  • Burning sensation

2. Options Gynol II Vaginal Contraceptive Gel

It comes in a tube that promises 13 applications if used as directed. This product is similar to the Conceptrol reviewed earlier. It is a gel product but comes in a bulk tube that you dispense yourself.

This is a plus for those who want to use the product with a diaphragm. The pre-filled options could be used for this, but it’s not as practical. People have been using this product for extended periods (10 -15 years in some cases) with no adverse reactions or negative feedback.

As with many of the nonoxydol-9 products, there are complications with burning and itching and even some numbness. The product is not recommended for use when oral sex is on the menu. The taste prohibits that from being enjoyable. Again, users complain about discharge of the gel for some time after use and many feel it is too thick and sticky. When used with a diaphragm, it can be applied 6 hours prior to intercourse.

Things We Liked

  • Spermicidal lube
  • No waiting period
  • Works great with diaphragm
  • 3% Nonoxydol-9

Things We Didn't Like

  • Sometimes feel sticky
  • Burning sensation
  • Not great taste

3. Today Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge

This contraceptive sponge is a two-in-one product. The sponge, which is made of plastic foam, offers barrier protection and it’s also treated with spermicide. The sponge is more expensive than spermicide alone, but is still a great value.

The overall effectiveness of the sponge ranges from 88%-91%, based on how often the sponge is correctly used.

The sponge is inserted into the vagina, and this can be done up to 24 hours prior to intercourse. This is great for those who think they may be getting lucky later and want to be prepared. It allows for a bit more spontaneity than spermicide alone.

You simply wet it, squeeze it gently to get it all foamy, fold it in half and insert it. Then you adjust it as needed so the indent rests on your cervix.

Many consumers state that taking the sponge out can be quite difficult. This is because, during sex, the sponge can become dislodged from its original position, and sometimes gets pushed further into the body. The sponge can also rotate, causing the loop that is used to aid in removal to become inaccessible.

Since the sponge is made from foam, users who have latex allergies find this an acceptable choice in lieu of condoms. Male partners particularly like it because it allows them to do a little bareback riding with some peace of mind.

Things We Liked

  • Dual action - both blocks and kills sperm
  • Condom friendly
  • Can be inserted 24hrs prior

Things We Didn't Like

  • Tricky to take out
  • Pricey

4. Contragel Natural Spermicidal gel

It is technically not a spermicide. To be considered a spermicide, the product must contain nonoxydol-9. Contragel Green is an all natural product that is meant to be used with barrier protection, not by itself.

It is labeled vegan which means it contains no animal based ingredients. This would appeal to the holistic consumer as there are no harmful chemicals in this formulation.

It is very thick and viscous, which makes it difficult for sperm to pass through it, and its pH level creates a hostile environment for sperm. The “Green” in the name comes from the fact that it is indeed green in color.

Things We Liked

  • Natural product, no chemicals
  • Works great with condom and caps

Things We Didn't Like

  • No applicator included

Remember when choosing to use a spermicide, that all of them are very up front stating that the products’ effectiveness is increased with use of a barrier contraceptive device. Heed the warnings regarding the spermicides inability to protect against STDs, and only monogamous couples should be using without any additional protection.

​If pregnancy is not that big of a deal, che sera, sera, these products will not present a problem for you. Otherwise, opt for a more reliable method of birth control.

  • Updated June 29, 2016
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