Science does not stand still, and this also applies to contraceptives: No wonder scientists are looking for other options, and manufacturers come up with new versions of already well-known means. At the same time, the choice is not limited to the usual condoms to prevent the spread of infections and oral contraceptives to help prevent unwanted pregnancies - many are looking for other methods of protection. We understand what spermicides are - and whether it is worth using them.
In the text we are talking about sex with penetration and about drugs that are injected into the vagina. We remind you that not all people with a vagina identify themselves as women and not all women have a vagina.
What are spermicides
Spermicides are one of the most ancient methods of contraception. In ancient Egypt, for example, women used honey, agave leaves and fruits for contraception in a similar way, in ancient Rome and Greece - olive oil, and only later, in the 17th century, lemon was used for this purpose. For obvious reasons, we do not recommend repeating something like this today.
Modern spermicides have thankfully become less extreme. Today they are found in a wide variety of formats - for example, creams, gels, foams and suppositories (that is, suppositories that melt at body temperature). There are even spermicides in the form of a transparent film that dissolves inside the vagina. Spermicides based on benzalkonium chloride and nonoxynol-9 are sold in Russia, the second type of drugs is popular in the world.
The Latin suffix "-cid" means "murder," but contraceptive does not kill sperm - instead, it simply restricts their mobility. Spermicides are substances that immobilize sperm by preventing them from reaching the egg. So they prevent unwanted pregnancy: if the sperm does not reach the egg, fertilization does not occur.
How to use spermicides
Spermicides are used alone or in conjunction with other contraceptives, such as caps and diaphragms or condoms. In addition, spermicides are part of the contraceptive sponges. Spermicides are different, but they have a common method of application: you need to take a comfortable position and use your fingers or using an applicator to insert the product deep into the vagina, like a tampon. The main thing to remember is that you need to take care of the spermicide before penetration. Some drugs take ten to fifteen minutes to completely dissolve and begin to act - so you should carefully study the instructions (this rule works not only for spermicides!).
The time of action of spermicides is also limited, many of them work only for an hour. If penetration is delayed, check the instructions and inject another dose of the drug in a timely manner - however, remember that repeated use of spermicide during the day can cause irritation. Another important principle: one portion of spermicide is designed for only one penetration. Even if the instruction says that the contraceptive is designed for several hours, this does not mean that you can forget about contraception: introduce a new dose.
It is not necessary to get or try to somehow wash the spermicide from the vagina after sex: for the contraceptive to work and help prevent pregnancy, it must be in the body for at least six hours. And in general, douching should be abandoned: there is no benefit from this procedure, but it can drive the infection already existing in the body higher, into other organs.
What you need to remember
Spermicides have clear benefits: they are easy-to-use and inexpensive, and are also suitable for those who are not ready to consider hormonal contraception. On this, however, the benefits of spermicides end.
Their main disadvantage is low efficiency.Even with ideal use, their Pearl Index (failure rate) is 18% - that is, 18 out of 100 people who use only this method will be pregnant in a year, despite the contraceptive. With imperfect use (let's be honest, there is anything in life and sex rarely takes place in ideal conditions) it is still more difficult: in a year, when using spermicide, 28 out of 100 people will face pregnancy. In comparison, oral contraceptives are 99% effective when used ideally and 91% when used normally. Penis-worn condoms are 98% effective when used ideally and approximately 82% effective when used in real life.
Also, spermicides do not protect against sexually transmitted infections at all - so they will most likely have to be combined with a condom. When developing spermicides, researchers initially hoped that nonoxynol-9-based products would protect against infections - but later clinical trials showed that they were ineffective in this regard. Moreover, the WHO now claims that spermicides can increase the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This happens, most likely, due to the fact that the frequent use of spermicides can irritate the walls of the vagina - and it is easier for infections to enter the body.
Due to the irritating properties of spermicides, they are not recommended for anal sex either. It is impossible to get pregnant from anal sex by itself, so injecting a spermicide into the rectum is pointless (which, of course, is not a reason to refuse, for example, condoms). Remember that anal sex does not exclude the risk of pregnancy in principle: sperm can enter or leak onto the vulva, and it can also be transferred to the vulva with fingers or hands.
Spermicides have other unpleasant features, albeit smaller than weak effectiveness. For example, they can be allergic - so if you, your partner, or your partner feel irritated after sex, this is a reason to think about other methods. Other minor troubles - spermicide can leak from the vagina, and this can cause discomfort. And some don't like its taste.
Of course, even a contraceptive with low effectiveness will be more beneficial than no contraception at all. But we advise you to consider more reliable options - and first of all think about your own safety.
PHOTOS: Irina Shatilova - stock.adobe.com (1, 2)