Page 5: Vaginal Spermicide

Spermicide is a chemical that kills sperm. It comes in a variety of forms such as creams, jellies, suppository, foam or film. Consider the following facts when selecting a spermicide.

  • Spermicides are recommended for use with condoms and should be used with diaphragms. When used with these items, spermicide increases their effectiveness.
  • The dose of the sperm-killing chemical in each type of spermicide varies from product to product. Read instructions carefully.
  • Women and men can have a sensitivity or allergy to spermicide. These reactions can include redness, itching, burning and swelling. If you have a reaction to one product you might try a different one (i.e. if a particular suppository causes you irritation, try a vaginal film or cream). However, if you consistently have irritation, itching or rash after using a spermicide, you should avoid use of these items until you speak to a health care provider.
  • Suppositories and films require some time to dissolve before they offer any contraceptive benefit.
  • The spermicide must be placed deep inside the vagina so that it comes in contact with the surface of the cervix.
  • If placed in the vagina more than an hour prior to intercourse, additional spermicide must be used.
  • A variety of spermicidal agents are available in supermarkets and drugstores.
  • Spermicides should be stored in a cool, dry location.



Effectiveness ratings are very low when spermicides are used as the only method of contraception. When used in combination with a condom or diaphragm, effectiveness ratings increase. However, if no other method of birth control is available, using a spermicide is certainly better than using nothing at all.

See: CDC Family Planning Methods


Additional information

Spermicidal jelly is available in the Health Resource Centers located at McKinley Health Center (Main Lobby, Information/HRC counter 217-333-2700) and the Illini Union, Room 40 (lower level 217-244-5994).