Contraceptive Gel

Quick Facts

Least effective

Does not protect from STIs

Hormone-free

You can use it with another method, like condoms or internal condoms

No one knows you’re using it unless you tell them

A squeeze tube of spermicide cream next to a cervical cap

More About the Contraceptive Gel

The contraceptive gel is a non-hormonal, prescription, vaginal gel that prevents pregnancy.

  • There is a new kind of contraceptive gel called Phexxi.
  • Once in, it works right away.
  • Phexxi comes in a pre-filled, 4-inch applicator. It is similar to using a tampon. Once you insert the applicator into the vagina, push the gel in. Then remove the applicator.
  • You can put it in up to an hour in advance – and no one needs to know.
  • It is effective for an hour after you put it in. You MUST use a new applicator of Phexxi every single time you have sex.
  • It is designed to remain in place inside the vagina. It won’t leak out.
  • Phexxi is NOT effective when used after sex.
  • You will need a prescription for Phexxi.

How to Use the Contraceptive Gel

  • You need to be okay touching your vagina. It has an applicator like a tampon.
  • Place the full contents of 1 pre-filled applicator of gel in your vagina right before, or up to 1 hour before, each act of vaginal sex.
  • If you are having sex multiple times in 1 hour, you must insert a new applicator before each sex act.
  • You can use it at the same time as condoms, internal condoms, diaphragms, and some types of hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, or shot).
  • You can use it after an abortion, miscarriage, or childbirth. Just make sure your nurse or doctor tells you it’s safe to have penis-in-vagina sex.

 

  • You can use the contraceptive gel anytime during your menstrual cycle.
  • The contraceptive gel is NOT effective when used after sex.
  • Do not use the contraceptive gel if you:
    • use the vaginal ring
    • are or might be pregnant or are breastfeeding
    • have had a history of repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs) or other urinary tract problems
    • or your partner are allergic to lactic acid, citric acid, potassium bitartrate, or any other ingredients in the contraceptive gel

 

Put spermicide in both sides of the cervical cap and spread some around the rim. Find your cervix with your fingers. Use your fingers to place the cap in your vagina, totally covering your cervix

Assemble the pre-filled applicator. Gently insert the applicator into the vagina as far as it will comfortably go. While the applicator is inserted in your vagina, use your index finger to push the plunger rod down until it stops. Gently remove the plunger rod and pre-filled applicator from the vagina. 

Yellow donut chart showing 86%. The title says "86% effective with typical use"

Effectiveness

  • Phexxi is 72.5% effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use. That is, on average, 27 out of 100 people using this method will get pregnant in a year.
  • You can improve effectiveness by using it with another method, such as condoms or withdrawal.

Benefits

  • It is hormone-free. The contraceptive gel is a birth control gel that works by maintaining vaginal pH. It may be suitable if you worry about the side effects of hormonal methods (e.g., weight gain, mood swings, and blood clots).
  • It can be put in up to one hour in advance. It doesn’t need to interrupt the heat of the moment.
  • It is easily reversible. You can use it only when you need it.
  • You and your partner shouldn’t be able to feel it.
  • Unlike spermicide, the contraceptive gel Phexxi doesn’t have nonoxynol-9 in it. So it doesn’t increase your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like spermicide can.
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A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects and Limitations

Common side effects:

  • Burning, itching, irritation, or discomfort in your vagina
  • Yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Irritation of your partner’s penis

Limitations:

  • You must have it with you and be able to put it in!
  • You must use a new applicator each and every time you have sex.
  • It does not protect against HIV or other STIs.
  • You need a prescription to purchase it.

 

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers the cost of the contraceptive gel. A Family PACT provider can help you decide if the contraceptive gel is the best choice for you. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click the “Find Providers” button in the top right-hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo