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OTC Spermicides: Description and Action

Spermicides belong to the barrier methods of contraception, which were among the oldest means of pregnancy prevention. Thousands years ago women tried inserting different things in their vaginas - from plants roots to animals’ excrements. Many of such experiments ended with complications, severe illnesses, and even women’s deaths. However, some of those methods turned out to be quite effective in preventing undesirable pregnancies. Moreover, they gave raise to the development of modern contraceptive methods, which work by blocking the passage of sperm to the uterus.

Due to the efforts of our ancestors we now have the possibility to use safe and quite effective spermicides. They are inserted vaginally before each intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. Nowadays spermicides contain one of such chemicals as nonoxynol-9, octoxynol-9, menfegol, benzalkonium chloride, or sodium cholate as an active ingredient. Concentrations of active ingredients can be different. It is said that higher-dose products (100 mg and 150 mg) are more effective than low-dose ones.

This barrier contraception method works by ruining the covering of the sperm head, thus immobilizing and killing it.

Spermicides come in different forms: gels, films, foams, sponges, creams, and foaming tablets and suppositories. The variety of forms allows every woman to choose a spermicide, which seems to be the most comfortable and easy to use. Therefore, many women say films, tablets or suppositories are less messy; however, they need some time to dissolve and start working. On the other hand, gels, foams, and creams work immediately.

Spermicides may be used alone, as the main contraceptive method. However, their failure rates are quite high in comparison to the other contraceptives (about 25-30% under typical use). That is why they are often used as an additional protection against pregnancy alongside with the main method.

The great advantage of spermicides is that they have very few side effects, which usually include local irritation and allergy. (Amazingly, a sensation of heat and burning is pleasurable for some people.) However, statistics shows that spermicides may sometimes provoke such less pleasurable side effects as urinary tract infections, yeast infection, and bacterial vaginosis in women. (Taking into account failure rates of this contraceptive method it is possible to include pregnancy into the list of possible adverse reactions.:-)

Among the other benefits of spermicides is the absence of contraindications, possibility to use them right after childbirth and during breastfeeding, and the chance of extra lubrication for those women who suffer from vaginal dryness. Besides, they are pretty inexpensive and have long shelf-life.

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However, as the latest studies show, spermicides do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. High doses and frequent use of these contraceptives may lead to vaginal tissues trauma, which can increase the risk of infection. In addition, The World Health Organization does not encourage the use of spermicidally lubricated condoms, confirming that they are likely to cause urinary-tract infections in women.

Unlike our ancestors, women do not have to perform experiments or miracles to avoid pregnancy today. If they are not sure about any contraceptive methods or have questions, they can simply consult their health care provider and get all the information they need.


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