Spermicides are films, creams or foams that contain a chemical called Nonoxynol 9 (N-9) that is toxic to sperm.

How spermicide works

Spermicide forms a chemical barrier at the entrance to the uterus. Sperm are trapped by the barrier and destroyed by the chemical.

When spermicides are used alone, they have proved to be only 78% effective at reducing the risk pregnancy. Therefore, they are most effectively used along with another form of birth control. When used with condoms, the effectiveness is 95% or higher.


  • Non-hormonal
  • It can be used during breastfeeding
  • Its portable – you can carry it in a purse, backpack.
  • Available in different forms (gel, foam and film)
  • Easy to access. They’re available at pharmacies – no prescription or doctor’s consult is necessary

Side effects

  • Spermicide may be irritating to the penis and/or vagina
  • May be inconvenient to insert/apply right before sex
  • Effective for a limited time – you will need to re-apply before having sex again
  • Some people can have an allergic reaction to spermicide.
  • No protection against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Frequent use of the common spermicide ingredient Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) can cause skin irritations that increase the risk of HIV/AIDS and other infections. Because of these findings, N-9 is not recommended for infection protection and safer sex.

 Health Canada recommends:

  • that the benefits of using a N-9 lubricated condom  probably outweigh the risk of using no condom at all. The best protection against sexually transmitted infections is a lubricated latex condom without N-9
  • N-9 condoms not be used for anal sex


Where do I get spermicide?

You can buy spermicide at any drug store. It usually sells for $12-20.

How do I use spermicide?

Spermicide is always used shortly before sex. Each type (film, foam, gel) has different instructions for use but are usually easily inserted. Be sure to read the instructions for your particular type.

Many types of spermicide require the user to wait 10 minutes after insertion before having sex. Spermicide is usually only remain effective for 1 hour after insertion so if you have sex again, you’ll need to insert more.