Quick Facts

Least effective
Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting an STI
Can be used with another method, like condoms or internal condoms
No prescription needed
Hormone free


A small plastic tube with PrePair Contraceptive Gel written on it.

More About Spermicide

Spermicide comes in different forms – gel, foam, cream, film, or capsule. They 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).

  • Spermicide doesn’t reduce your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). 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. 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. The capsules 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.
  • 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.
  • It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes after you put it in before it becomes active.
  • Do not douche for at least 6 hours after you put it in.
A plastic applicator beside a small cylindrical container of vaginal contraceptive foam.
Orange donut chart showing 79%. The title says "79% effective with typical use"


  • Spermicide is 79% effective with typical use. That is, on average, 21 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 a condom or withdrawal.


  • 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.
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Side Effects and Limitations

  • It can irritate the skin, especially if used several times in a day.
  • Some people are allergic.
  • It doesn’t reduce your chances of getting STIs.
  • It can throw off the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina. This can make infection more likely.
  • It can make spreading HIV and other STIs more likely. It’s not a good choice if you or your partner has an STI, 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.

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