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Read this before you use spermicidal creams and gels to prevent unwanted pregnancy

Published on:7 January 2020, 20:00pm IST
To avoid unwanted pregnancy, a lot of contraceptive methods are emerging now. If you plan to use spermicidal creams and gels, do give this article a read.
Sonakshi Kohli
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Spermicides are sperms’ biggest enemy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

You know what’s worse than an unwanted pregnancy in life? The outrageously growing population of India due to them!

While most sexually active women resort to using condoms for protection or take oral contraceptives in the form of hormonal birth control pills to avoid getting pregnant, many others seem rather short of choices.

We say so because hormonal birth control pills might not suit everyone and may cause a lot of trouble in terms of mood swings, weight gain, and even depression! And the barrier contraception of condoms might hinder the sexual pleasure for a few others.

Enter: Spermicides, a.k.a., sperms’ biggest enemy and contraception’s BFF
A detailed research, published in the Journal of Fertilization, defines spermicides as “drugs that have the ability to immobilise or kill the sperm upon contact.”

Dr. Uma Vidyanathan, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, further explains their way of working and says:

  • Spermicides are applied deep into the vagina prior to sexual intercourse and prevent pregnancy in two ways:
  • By blocking the entrance to the cervix (the lowest muscular part of your uterus) so sperm can’t get to the egg.
    By stopping sperm from moving well enough to swim its way to the egg for fertilisation.

They are available over the counter in these 6 different forms:

  • A spermicidal foam, that can be applied into the vagina with the help of an applicator.
  • A contraceptive film, which needs to be inserted into the vagina.
  • A spermicidal jelly, which needs to be applied into the vagina using an applicator.
  • Vaginal inserts with spermicidal tablets that melt into foam and need to be placed into the vagina (close to the cervix) for 10-15 min before sex.
  • Spermicidal creams that need to be applied into the vagina as close to the cervix as possible.
  • A spermicidal sponge, which is nothing but a soft, disk-shaped piece of squishy plastic, which is placed near the cervix before sexual intercourse to block the entrance of sperms.
how to prevent unwanted pregnancy
Unwanted pregnancy can be a serious cause of concern.
GIF courtesy: GIPHY

Which is the best form though?
“There is no difference in effectiveness between various spermicide types, such as gel, film or suppository,” Dr. Vidyanathan points out.

It’s effectiveness simply depends on the quantity of an organic compound called Nonoxynol-9/N-9, present in the spermicide, which is basically responsible for killing or weakening the sperm.

“The most effective spermicide contains at least 100 mg of nonoxynol-9 per dose. A woman is more likely to get pregnant if she uses a weaker spermicide,” Dr. Vidyanathan warns.

Are spermicides really effective for birth control?
“Spermicide used alone for contraception has a high failure rate of 28% for typical users. This means that in 1 year, 28 out of 100 women who use spermicides as their only method of birth control get pregnant,” says Dr. Vidyanathan.

By the way, that’s not the only downside
If you think the 28% chances of getting pregnant despite the use of spermicides for birth control is their only disadvantage, Dr. Vidyanathan lists out a host of others for you to know.

  • Some people are allergic to nonoxynol-9, the active ingredient in most spermicides. They can develop itching or sores in the vagina.
  • It can pose a problem for your sexual partner by causing a penile irritation or a burning sensation while peeing.
  • Unlike condoms, spermicides do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
  • In fact, nonoxynol-9 in spermicides may increase the risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an
    infected partner by irritating the vaginal lining.
  • It can also make you more prone to getting a urinary tract infection.
  • Applying a spermicide correctly can be a pain, at least, initially.

Also read: Unwanted pregnancy and STIs: These are the real risks of the pull-out method

So, why the hype?
Because, d-uh! Using spermicides for contraception is better than taking no precaution at all. Moreover, they have the following advantages as well, according to Dr. Vidyanathan:

  • They do not impact future fertility of the woman or the man as they are used
    only at the time of sexual intercourse.
  • They are safe to use while breastfeeding (birth control pills that contain estrogen affects
    milk supply).
  • They are relatively less expensive than hormonal methods of birth control.
  • They are deemed safe for women, who have other health problems (birth control pills that contain estrogen are not to be used in specified medical conditions)
birth control pill
Analyse risks of all birth control methods before making any decision. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The verdict?
Since spermicides aren’t very effective in preventing an unwanted pregnancy or protecting you against sexually transmitted infections, Dr. Vidyanathan suggests using them along with condoms for better results.

She also suggests taking the following precautions while using a spermicide in case you decide to bank on it solely for contraception.

  • Follow the directions carefully to make sure the spermicide is properly placed in the vagina.
  • Remember, the spermicide should be inserted deep into the vagina as close to the cervix as possible.
  • Use a new dose for each act of sexual intercourse.
  • After you have applied or inserted the spermicide, wait for around 15 minutes or whatever time is prescribed on the product before having sexual intercourse.
  • If you do not have intercourse within half an hour after applying a spermicide, read the product directions to see if you need to apply more of it again.
  • Although vaginal douching isn’t recommended at all, women who use spermicides should especially avoid it for at least 8 hours after intercourse, so that the spermicide continues to work to prevent pregnancy.

If you manage to take all these precautionary steps, lady luck might decide to shine upon you and not make you pregnant against your wishes.

Also read: 5 things I wish I had known before my first gyno appointment

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Sonakshi Kohli Sonakshi Kohli

Twenty kilos down and struggling to maintain the weight loss by preaching healthy eating, while eating unhealthy every now and then.