Condoms are a form of barrier birth control, and they come in many varieties. Some condoms come coated with spermicide, which is a type of chemical that damages sperm. The spermicide most often used on condoms is nonoxynol-9.
When used as directed, condoms can protect against pregnancy 98 percent of the time. By itself, spermicide is one of the least effective forms of birth control, preventing pregnancy about 72 percent of the time.
Combining spermicide with condoms may increase effectiveness, but there’s little data on how much this really helps.
Spermicide condoms also do not increase protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and they may actually increase the possibility of contracting HIV when having sexual intercourse with someone who already has HIV.
Spermicides are a type of birth control that are mostly made with nonoxynol-9. This chemical works as a spermicide by attacking the outer layer, or membrane, of sperm.
As the membrane is destroyed by the spermicide, the sperm begins to break into pieces, becoming immobilized and eventually destroyed. Once destroyed, sperm can no longer interact with the female egg and cause pregnancy.
Spermicide can be used alone or in addition to other types of birth control, such as a cervical cap or diaphragm.
Condoms alone are about 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used as directed, and spermicides on their own are about 72 percent effective.
There is no large-scale data that specifically studies how effective the combination of these two contraceptives are when it comes to preventing pregnancy.
While condoms can add protection against STIs in addition to preventing pregnancy, spermicides offer no protection in this area.
In fact, spermicides have been found to irritate the lining of the vagina, potentially increasing the risk of contracting STIs like HIV.
Pros of using condoms with spermicide
- portable and lightweight
- available without a prescription
- protective against unwanted pregnancy when used correctly
Cons of using condoms with spermicide
- more expensive than other types of lubricated condoms
- have a shorter shelf life
- are no more effective at protecting against STIs than regular condoms
- may increase risk of HIV transmission
- contain a small amount of spermicide compared with other forms of spermicidal birth control
The spermicide used on spermicidal condoms — nonoxynol-9 — can cause allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms include temporary itching, redness, and swelling. It can also cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) in some people with a vagina.
Because spermicide can irritate the penis and vagina, contraceptives containing nonoxynol-9 may increase the risk of HIV transmission. This risk increases if spermicide is used multiple times in one day or for several consecutive days.
If you experience irritation, discomfort, or an allergic reaction, changing spermicide brands may help. It may also help to try other forms of birth control.
If you or your partner has HIV, spermicidal condoms may not be the best birth control method for you.
Read more: Which birth control is right for you?
Spermicides are not known to cause birth defects. If you conceived while using spermicidal condoms or any other type of spermicidal birth control, the fetus is not likely to be harmed as a result.
Spermicides also do not enter breast milk or affect the production of breast milk, so they are safe to use while breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
No one type of birth control, other than abstinence, is 100 percent effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy or reducing the risk of STI transmission. Some types are more effective than others, however. For example, birth control pills are 99 percent effective when taken perfectly, although this rate goes down if you miss a dose.
If you prefer a form of hormonal birth control that you don’t have to remember to use daily, talk with your doctor about the following methods:
- birth control implants (Nexplanon, Implanon)
- vaginal rings (NuvaRing)
- medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera)
There are other nonhormonal forms of contraception available, but these are typically less effective. Options for these types of contraceptives include:
External (male) and internal (female) condoms are the only types of birth control that also help prevent STIs. Either one can be used alone or with other forms of birth control, such as spermicide.
Every type of birth control method has pros and cons. Your lifestyle, health history, and preferences are all important factors to consider when choosing a method.
You can discuss all of these birth control options with a doctor and determine which method makes the most sense for you.
Spermicide condoms can be found in most places where condoms are sold, including online, like Amazon. Spermicide products do not require a prescription and can be purchased at most drugstores and retail locations.
Be sure to read the label carefully to see what type of spermicide is included, if any. Some of the major brands in the United States that offer condoms with spermicides include Durex, Lifestyles, Skyn, and Trojan. Only certain varieties of these brands contain spermicides.
Some natural condoms, like those made of lambskin, may also contain spermicides. Ask a doctor or pharmacist, or contact the manufacturer, if you have specific questions about a condom that contains spermicide.
Do spermicide condoms really work?
There have not been many recent, large-scale studies on the effectiveness of condoms that contain spermicide, but there are estimates that they are at least slightly more effective than regular condoms when it comes to preventing pregnancy.
The best way to increase your pregnancy prevention powers is to use spermicide along with another birth control method.
Are most condoms made with spermicide?
Condoms can be purchased with or without spermicide. Selections vary based on manufacturer, so check the label and packaging carefully before making your choice.
How do you use spermicide condoms correctly?
Condoms can be made with spermicide, or the separate products can be used together. Any time spermicide is used as its own product, it must be inserted into the vagina at least 10 to 15 minutes before sexual intercourse.
Spermicides are only effective for about 1 hour, and a new condom should always be used for each separate sexual encounter.
When used correctly, spermicidal condoms may help prevent unwanted pregnancy. But there’s no evidence that they have greater benefit than regular condoms. Spermicidal condoms are more expensive than condoms without spermicide and do not have as long a shelf life.
Spermicidal condoms may also increase the risk of HIV transmission.