What is the role of spermicidal agents in contraception?

Updated: Dec 10, 2018
  • Author: Frances E Casey, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
  • Print
Answer

Answer

Vaginal spermicides consist of a base combined with either nonoxynol-9 or octoxynol. The actual spermicidal agent consists of a surfactant that destroys the sperm cell membrane. Bases include vaginal foams, suppositories, jellies, films, foaming tablets, and creams. These must be inserted into the vagina prior to each coital act. Use of spermicidal agents also reduces the risk of infection by both viral and bacterial organisms that cause STDs; however, clinical data on their efficacy for preventing the transmission of HIV are limited. Nonoxynol-9 is toxic to the lactobacilli that are part of the normal vaginal flora. Adverse effects include increased vaginal colonization with the bacteria Escherichia coli, which may predispose to bacteriuria after intercourse.

Spermicides prevent sperm from entering the cervical os by attacking the sperm's flagella and body, reducing their mobility, and disrupting their fructolytic activity, thereby inhibiting their nourishment.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!