OP: Spermicides - A Review

Many posts on the forums here recommend the use of vaginal spermicides along with condoms as effective protection against pregnancy. Using condoms alone, but properly, for each sex act for a year for 100 women will result in about fifteen pregnancies. Using vaginal spermicide, alone, will result in about 18 pregnancies. Using them both together will yield about three pregnancies, or the same as using most hormonal systems. There is a sticky on various systems of birth control.
There have also been many posts on just what is a spermicide. A spermicide is a substance that will kill sperm on contact that is inserted into the vagina before the penis is inserted. The most common chemical used is Nonoxynol-9, which has been in use since the middle of the twentieth century. Ancient texts reveal that lemon juice, tobacco juice, honey and various other natural substances have been used as long history has records. Because Non-9 is a detergent, some women have an allergic reaction to it. There are products that use alternatives such as Octoxynal-9, Benzalkonium Chloride, Sodium Cholate (usually with another spermicide) and Menfegol. If you react to Non-9, look around and you will find another spermicide that you will tolerate.

All the products listed below have about the same effectiveness but differ in their convenience and method of insertion. Each has some advantages and each woman has to determine which she prefers. 100-150 mg in the vagina is required to be effective. That is 100 mg of the active ingredient, not of the product! The spermicidal lubrication on condoms is not sufficient to be effective and should not be depended upon in lieu of vaginal spermicide. What is available (brands are only the most common; other brands may be available in different countries):

1. Vaginal jelly. (Gynol II, K-Y+, Koromex). Jelly comes in a tube similar to tooth paste and requires an applicator. This places the greatest amount of spermicide in the vagina, helps with lubrication and is preferred by many when it does not have to be carried around. This system is rather bulky to have in your purse. The first tube you buy should be “with applicator.” The applicator is screwed onto the tube and filled by squeezing the tube. Diaphragms and cervical caps require jelly for their effectiveness. Effective as soon as you put it in.

2. Foam. (Delfen, Ortho Foam). Comes in a bottle with an applicator. The applicator is pressed onto the spring loaded top of the bottle and the product, under pressure, foams into the applicator. Foam is not lubricating and is also bulky to carry with you. Effective as soon as you put it in.

3. Film. (VCF). Comes in thin sheets that are inserted with your fingers into the vagina. It is rather convenient to carry in a purse but can be damaged if it is in there a long time. The film melts with body heat and vaginal juices. Many women like the film for its convenience without an applicator; many dislike it because it becomes very sticky very quickly and they have difficulty inserting it deeply. Effective within a minute of insertion.

4. Suppositories. (Encare, Norforms). These are the most convenient form of spermicide to carry with you and are packaged in a metallic or plastic wrapper. They are inserted by pressing in as deeply as possible with a finger. Suppositories require fifteen to twenty minutes to melt and become effective.

5. Prefilled applicator. (Conceptrol). This is a single use applicator slightly smaller than a tampon with applicator that is effective as soon as inserted. Not as convenient as suppositories but handier than most to carry with you.

6. Sponge. (Today). This is a small sponge impregnated with two or three different spermicides. It must be moistened and inserted to cover the cervix. The idea is that the sponge will absorb the sperm rich semen and the sperm will be immobilized. If the sponge is displaced, the protection is reduced. This is a fairly expensive option that is slightly more effective than other spermicides.

All of these except the sponge recommend re-application for each act. The sponge is effective for 24 hours no matter how often. If you have a home and regular spot for sex, any of these systems is quite effective. If you are dating about, convenience of carrying them has got to be considered. With this, the suppositories win. As a teen, whilst attending a German school with real sex education, many of the women found a handy helper from a tampon company. One of the tampon manufacturers was giving away tampon carriers that held two standard tampons. What was discovered was that if we used non-applicator tampons, the case would carry a few tampons, a few suppositories and two folded condoms in their envelopes. There was nothing unusual about a fifteen year old woman having tampons in her purse and these never caught anyone’s attention. Not even mum’s!

Words of caution: Spermicides offer only slight protection against STDs (consider it as none). Condoms are still required for disease protection. Many spermicides and condoms with spermicide now carry warnings about not to be used more than once a day. This warning is self-protection for the manufacturer. Whilst testing spermicides for HIV protection, it was discovered that the spermicide (specifically Non-9) would cause the skin to tear more easily and this, it was inferred, would make transmission of HIV more likely. This is true for anal sex but there is essentially no effect for vaginal sex. The thinner, less elastic tissue of the rectum does tear easily. The thicker, more elastic tissue of the vagina is unaffected.

For a woman for whom pregnancy is more than an inconvenience, spermicides are not adequately effective alone but, with a condom, are very good protection.

OP: Brandye 07/14/2010

Posted: 23 Sep 03:15


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