Basic Info & FAQs
“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.
Best if used with another method
Spermicide works best when paired with another method, like the diaphragm or condoms. You can use spermicide to make a barrier method more effective, but it’s not very effective if used alone.
You wouldn’t mind getting pregnant
If you plan to use spermicide alone, keep in mind that the failure rate is pretty high—28% for typical use.
No prescription necessary
If you can’t make it to the doctor (or don’t want to), you can always use spermicide. It’s available at most drug stores and supermarkets. But why not pick up a pack of condoms while you’re at it?
Some people are allergic
If you get irritated using spermicide, you’re probably allergic to it. Unfortunately, all spermicides and contraceptive gels sold in the United States contain the same active ingredient, Nonoxynol-9. If you’re allergic to that, this method (and condoms with spermicidal lubricant) won’t work for you.
You’re confident you’re both HIV-free
Nonoxynol-9 causes changes in your sensitive skin down there that can make you more susceptible to HIV. If you or your partner have HIV or haven’t been tested recently, you may want to steer clear of this method.
What does it cost?
Spermicide, let us count the ways: Gel and jelly, inserts, film, and foam. Because there are so many types of spermicidal products, and they’re all relatively comparable in availability and cost, you’re likely to find it nearby in at least one of its many forms—and for a very decent price.
Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low cost birth control (most do).
Note: Online ranges are averaged to include taxes and standard shipping costs. Price ranges are from a survey of select online and in-store vendors as of June 2016 and will no doubt change over time.
GEL & JELLY
- CVS: $1.20 - $2.00
- Rite Aid: $1.10 - $1.60
- Target: $1.20 - $1.40
- Walgreens: $1.00 - $1.70
- Walmart: $0.90 - $1.60
- Amazon.com: $1.10 - $2.80
- CVS.com: $1.25 - $1.70
- Drugstore.com: $1.15 - $1.50
- Pharmapacks.com: $0.90 - $1.45
- RiteAid.com: $1.35 - $1.60
- Target.com: $1.25 - $1.45
- Walgreens.com: $1.15 - $1.75
- Walmart.com: $0.95 – $1.60
- CVS: $1.30 - $1.60
- Rite Aid: $1.60 - $1.90
- Target: $1.05 - $1.20
- Walgreens: $1.50 - $1.75
- Walmart: $1.10 - $1.45
- Amazon.com: $1.25 - $1.80
- CVS.com: $1.45
- Drugstore.com: $1.45 - $1.75
- Pharmapacks.com: $1.20 - $1.50
- RiteAid.com: $1.70 - $1.90
- Target.com: $1.15 - $1.40
- Walgreens.com: $1.65 - $1.90
- Walmart.com: $1.15 - $1.35
- CVS: $1.10 - $1.25
- Walmart: $0.65 - $1.30
- Amazon.com: $1.30 - $2.20
- CVS.com: $1.25
- Pharmapacks.com: $1.10 - $1.50
- Walmart.com: $0.70 - $1.25
- CVS: $0.55 - $0.85
- Walmart: $0.45 - $0.65
- Amazon.com: $0.50 - $1.10
- CVS.com: $0.70
- Drugstore.com: $0.75 - $0.95
- Pharmapacks.com: $0.55 - $0.75
- Walgreens.com: $0.75 - $0.90
- Walmart.com: $0.60 - $0.65
How do I use it?
Every type of spermicide is different, and there are a lot of them available. So be sure to read the instructions on the packaging and check the expiration date. For the most part, though, you simply insert the spermicide with your fingers or with an applicator, just like you’d insert a tampon.
After insertion, some spermicides require that you wait ten minutes before having sex. These types of spermicide are also only effective for a single hour after you put them in—so you have to get the timing right.
The good & the bad
- Easy to use and convenient to get a hold of
- Can be inserted as foreplay (sexy!)
- Doesn’t affect your hormones
- No prescription necessary
- Can be used while breastfeeding
- Can be kinda messy and/or leak out of your vagina
- Might irritate your vagina or your partner’s penis
- Some people are allergic to spermicide
- You may not like the taste
- All spermicides sold in the U.S. contain Nonoxynol-9, which can cause irritation (especially if you use it more than once a day). That can lead to an increased risk of HIV and STI transmission
- Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk