CHEMICAL METHODS FOR WOMEN: SPERMICIDES
Spermicides come in a variety of forms, including creams, suppositories, gels, foams, foaming tablets, capsules, and films. They are relatively inexpensive and available without a prescription. Nonoxynol-9 is a spermicide that has been used for many years. It is available over the counter in many forms (creams, gels, suppositories, film, and condoms with spermicide) and can be used alone or in conjunction with another contraceptive method. However, as you saw from Sex in Real Life on page 413, there has been some controversy surrounding the use of nonoxynol-9.
Over the years, spermicides have become less popular as more effective contraceptive methods have been developed, but because spermicides can help prevent STIs, their popularity has been increasing again. Women need a product that can protect from both pregnancy and STIs. Scientists are actively pursuing approximately 60 products, called microbicides (my-crow-BISS-sides), that have been proven effective in protecting against HIV and other STIs, although none are currently available. It is anticipated that over the next few years there will be several new microbicides introduced (we will discuss these more in Chapter 15). Today in the United States, the cost for most spermicides ranges from $5 to $10. They are generally less expensive in clinics.
How They Work
Spermicides contain two components: one is an inert base such as jelly, cream, foam, or film that holds the spermicide close to the cervix; and the second is the spermicide itself. Foam, jelly, cream, and film are usually inserted into the vagina with either an applicator or a finger. Vaginal contraceptive film (VCF), produced in England, is now available over the counter in the United States. The film is 2 inches square, contains nonoxynol-9, and comes in packages of 12. To use, the film is wrapped around the index finger and inserted up into the vagina.
Suppositories are inserted in the vagina 10 to 30 minutes before intercourse to allow time for the outer covering to melt. It is important to read manufacturer’s directions for spermicide use very carefully. Douching and tampon use should be avoided for 6 to 8 hours following the use of spermicides, as they interfere with effectiveness rates.