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“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.

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If you've got no other options

The failure rate of spermicide on its own is pretty high—28% for typical use—but it's better than using nothing at all.

“Boost” another method

You can use spermicide to make another method (like condoms) more effective.

No prescription necessary

If you can't make it to the doctor (or don't want to), you can always use spermicide. It's available at most drug stores and supermarkets. But why not pick up a pack of condoms while you're at it?

Some people are allergic

If you get irritated using spermicide, you're probably allergic to it. Unfortunately, all spermicides and contraceptive gels sold in the United States contain the same active ingredient, Nonoxynol-9. If you’re allergic to that, this method (and condoms with spermicidal lubricant) won’t work for you.

You’re confident your partner is HIV-free.

Women who have a high risk of exposure to HIV shouldn’t use this method. Nonoxynol-9 causes changes in your vadge that can make you more susceptible to HIV. If there’s a chance your guy is sleeping around or has in the past and has never been tested, use a condom.

Don't take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear women and men talk about their experiences with spermicide.

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Spermicide, let us count the ways: Gel, jelly, inserts, film, and foam. Because there are so many types of spermicidal products, and they’re all relatively comparable in availability and cost, you're likely to find it nearby in at least one of its many forms—and for a very decent price.

Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low cost birth control (most do).

Note: Online ranges are averaged to include taxes and standard shipping costs. Price ranges are from a survey of select online and in-store vendors as of October 2014 and will no doubt change over time.


In-Store Vendors

  • CVS: $1.50 - $1.70
  • Rite Aid: $1.50 - $2.00
  • Target: $1.30 - $1.70
  • Walgreens: $1.40 - $2.70
  • Walmart: $1.20 - $1.80

Online Vendors

  • $1.25 - $1.75
  • $1.20 - $1.55
  • $1.50 - $1.60
  • $1.30 - $1.90
  • $1.40 - $2.10
  • $1.30 - $1.60
  • $1.20 - $1.60
  • $1.45 - $2.30
  • $1.20 – $1.60


In-Store Vendors

  • CVS: $1.15 - $1.70

Online Vendors

  • $0.95 - $1.35
  • $1.00 - $1.40
  • $1.15 - $1.70
  • $1.15 - $1.70
  • $0.95 - $1.30


In-Store Vendors

  • CVS: $1.30 - $1.70
  • Walgreens: $1.15 - $1.75

Online Vendors

  • $1.65 - $2.10
  • $1.45 - $1.70
  • $1.45 - $2.10
  • $1.15 - $1.60
  • $1.15 - $1.50
  • $1.70 - $2.25
  • $1.15 - $1.70


In-Store Vendors

  • CVS: $1.90 - $3.00
  • Walmart: $1.20 - $2.20

Online Vendors

  • $1.70 - $2.40
  • $2.05 - $3.20
  • $2.10 - $2.25
  • $1.85 - $2.50
  • $1.15 - $1.85


In-Store Vendors

  • CVS: $0.60 - $1.10
  • Walmart: $0.50 - $0.90

Online Vendors

  • $0.60 - $0.90
  • $0.55 - $0.90
  • $0.65 - $0.90
  • $0.70 - $1.15
  • $0.55 - $0.85
  • $0.90 - $1.15
  • $0.60 - $0.85

Every type of spermicide is different, and there are a lot of them available. So be sure to read the instructions on the packaging and check the expiration date. For the most part, though, you simply insert the spermicide with your fingers or with an applicator, just like you'd insert a tampon.

After insertion, some spermicides require that you wait ten minutes before having sex. These types of spermicide are also only effective for a single hour after you put them in—so you have to get the timing right.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone's different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

The Negative

  • Easy to use and convenient to get a hold of
  • Can be inserted as foreplay (sexy!)
  • Doesn't affect your hormones
  • No prescription necessary
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Can be kinda messy and/or leak out of your vagina
  • Might irritate your vagina or your partner's penis
  • Some people are allergic to spermicide
  • You may not like the taste
  • All spermicides sold in the U.S. contain Nonoxynol-9, which can cause irritation (especially if you use it more than once a day). That can lead to an increased risk of HIV and STI transmission
  • Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we've got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I find spermicide irritating.

    The irritation might be because of the brand of spermicide you're using, so you might want to try out another kind.

    Still not working?

    If you’re allergic to Nonoxynol-9 (the main ingredient in all spermicides/contraceptive gels sold in the United States), you may need to check out another method. If you prefer something without hormones, condoms, female condoms, and the copper IUD could all be good options.

    Try a different method

  • ...The spermicide I'm using is really messy.

    You could try switching brands and making sure you're using your spermicide exactly as the instructions say you should. That said, spermicide is messy. If it bothers you you might want to look into another method.

    Still not working?

    If spermicide isn't working for you, you may want to try a long-term, low-maintenance method like the IUD, the implant, or the shot. If you prefer a non-hormonal method without spermicide, you might want to try the ParaGard IUD or condoms.

    Try a different method

quick facts /

  • Easy to find, no hormones, and no prescription needed.

  • Spermicide's not so great on its own. Much better with another barrier method.

  • Most don't have any problems, but you or your man could have some irritation.

  • Have to apply it every time you have sex.


Perfect use
82 %
Typical use
72 %
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