Quick Facts

Least effective

Does not protect from STDs

Can be used with another method, like condoms or internal condoms

No prescription needed


A white tube reading PrePair Contraceptive Gel

More About Spermicide


Spermicide comes in different forms – gel, foam, cream, film or capsule. They all have a chemical that kills sperm or stops sperm from moving and reaching an egg. They are placed deep in the vagina so that they cover the cervix (the opening to the uterus).

  • Does not protect you from STDs. In fact it can irritate the vagina, making infection more likely.
  • You must use it before you have sex and put in more every hour
  • Spermicide works best when used with other methods, like condoms or internal condoms


How to Use Spermicide

There are many kinds of spermicide, so be sure to read and follow the directions on the one you get. Gel, foam, and cream spermicides are placed into the vagina using a plastic applicator that comes with the kit when you buy it. The film is like a thin, flexible paper that you fold and put into the vagina with your finger. Once you put it in, the film turns into a gel. You put capsules into the vagina. They turn into a gel once they are in.

  • Carefully follow the directions on the package of your spermicide. Be sure to check the expiration date on the box.
  • It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes after you put it in before it becomes active
  • Practice getting it deep into the vagina, all the way up to the cervix. It might help to squat or put one foot on a toilet seat or a chair.
  • Do not douche for at least 6 hours after you put it in
A plastic dispenser and white tube reading Vaginal Contraceptive Foam


  • 72% effective with typical use. This means that on average, 28 out of 100 women using this method will get pregnant in a year. You can improve effectiveness by:
  • 82% effective with perfect use. This means that if spermicide is used correctly all the time, 18 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year.
Orange donut chart showing 72%. The title says "72% effective with typical use"
Orange donut chart showing 82%. The title says "82% effective with perfect use"


  • Easy to get over the counter. No prescription required
  • Easy to use
  • It makes other kinds of birth control, like condoms and internal condoms, more effective
  • You can put it in ahead of time so it doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Easy to carry with you. Most packages are small and fit in a purse
  • Hormone free
Nine hands each holding a thumbs up
A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects and Limitations

  • It can irritate the skin, especially if used several times in a day.
  • Some people are allergic
  • Doesn’t protect you from STDs
  • Can throw off the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina. This can make infection more likely.
  • It can make spreading HIV and other STDs more likely. Therefore, it’s not a good choice if you or your partner has an STD, or if you don’t know for sure.

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, spermicide is covered by Family PACT. A Family PACT provider can talk with you about the best ways to use spermicide, and help you decide if it is a good choice for you. You can search for a Family PACT provider near you by clicking on the “Provider Search” button in the right hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo