Patient Information: Birth Control
Contraceptive Foam, Inserts and Jellies
What Are They?
Foam, inserts and jellies are made of chemicals that kill sperm. These
chemicals are called spermicides. They are put into the vagina before
intercourse and help prevent pregnancy in two ways. One way is by killing
the sperm. The second way is by acting as a barrier which prevents the
sperm from entering the uterus.
How Effective Are They?
If you use spermicides correctly every time you have sex, your chances
of getting pregnant are small. Spermicides used alone without condoms
are about 80% effective. You can make your chances of getting pregnant
even smaller by using condoms along with spermicides. This method is about
How to Use Foams and Jellies.
The first time you buy foam/gel, a starter kit containing an applicator
must be purchased. The applicator can be used more than once. The applicator
needs to be washed with soap and water after each use. Replace the container
of foam/gel as necessary. It is recommended to keep a second container
of foam on hand because with most brands you cannot tell when the container
is almost empty.
- Shake the container 20 times before using to make sure the foam is
well mixed with the spermicide.
- Brands vary in the amount of foam/gel necessary for protection against
pregnancy. Some may require more than one full applicator. Follow the
directions on the package insert.
- Place the applicator on the top of the container and apply pressure
while pushing down or tilting it to the side (this will vary with the
brand) until the applicator is full.
- While lying on your back, insert the applicator into the vagina as
deep as you can, then push the plunger. Stay lying down once you have
inserted the foam/gel so it will stay up around the cervix (opening
to the uterus). If you walk around it will run out of the vagina and
will not be effective.
- Have intercourse within 20-30 minutes after insertion. If it has been
over 30 minutes, insert more foam/gel. Put in more foam/gel each time
you have intercourse.
- It is not recommended to douche after using spermicides. If you want
to douche, wait 6-8 hours because the sperm can stay in the vagina this
The first time you buy inserts, a starter kit containing an applicator
must be purchased for certain brands. Some brands can be used with or
without an applicator. If an applicator is used, it may be used more than
once and needs to be washed with soap and water after each use. Replace
the refill box of inserts as necessary. Follow instructions for each brand
if you choose to use either the applicator method of insertion or insert
it with your finger.
Place insert into applicator. While lying on your back, push the applicator
deeply into the vagina. Hold the applicator in place and push the plunger
to deposit the insert near the cervix. Remove applicator. WAIT 10 MINUTES
after placing the insert before intercourse.
The inserts are placed into the vagina before intercourse. Using your
index finger, place one insert as far as possible into the vagina. The
best protection will occur when the insert is placed deep into the vagina
near the cervix. WAIT 10 MINUTES after placing the insert before intercourse.
Most inserts provide protection from 10 minutes to 1 hour after the product
is inserted. Place a new insert each time intercourse is repeated. If
intercourse has not taken place within 1 hour after placement of the insert,
use a new insert.
Spermicides may be purchased at the drugstore, family planning clinics
and some grocery stores without a doctor's prescription.
- Spermicides are easy to use and easy to carry.
- Use of a latex condom and spermicides, which contain the chemical
Nonoxonyl-9, together reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted
diseases. These spermicides will not cure any sexually transmitted disease.
See a physician for treatment if you think you have one.
At least 20 women out of 100 will become pregnant if using a spermicide
- Spermicides must be inserted at the time of having intercourse and
may seem like an interruption.
- Spermicides may irritate the woman's vagina or man's penis. Try changing
brands if this is a problem.
- Some women think spermicides are messy. A panty-liner can be worn
after intercourse to absorb some of the extra liquid.
Peer Review Status: Internally
Peer Review Date: 2004