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Spermicides at a Glance

Suddenly the serenity of a dark cave was broken by a myriad of unknown creatures with big round heads and nimble tails. All of them rushed to the center of the cave, driven by the only instinct to be the first to find the target object and penetrate it. Unexpectedly something went wrong and the army of conquerors started to lose its force as it approached to the target. Those who were at the first raw decreased the speed of their attack and fell down, crushed by the invisible weapon. In a few seconds the rest of the creatures suffered the same fate: every single participant of the multi-million attack was crushed by something unknown and ruthless; and the target still remained unaffected.

Well, this was not a promo for the latest Hollywood action movie – it was just a little bit hyperbolized, but, in general, true description of the mode of action of spermicides - substances widely used nowadays to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Spermicides are usually defined as the substances inserted into the female vagina prior to sexual intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. In fact, it is a barrier type of contraception, where the working agents mechanically prevent male sperm from fertilizing an egg, released from the female ovary. This is ensured by the ability of spermicidal agents to destroy the outer layer or membrane of the sperm, which results in the leakage of the intracellular material and the death of sperm cells. Sounds pretty terrifying, isn’t it?

However, spermicides are commonly used by woman nowadays because of certain advantages this type of contraception features. First, it is not hormonal, so one can avoid potential side effects and risks, associated with the daily use of hormonal pills. Second, spermicides are available without medical prescription in many retail stores, outlets and pharmacies. Third, spermicides may protect from certain sexually transmitted diseases, destroying viruses the same way as they do with the sperm cells. Finally, spermicides work great as the lubricants, ensuring more comfortable and less painful intercourse for women, suffering from vaginal dryness.

For the time being, spermicides are available in the great variety of forms: jellies, creams, foams, foaming tablets and melting suppositories. Each of this type offers its own way of spermicide delivery into the battlefield (read “female vagina”), so every woman can choose the option, which suites her best. From the chemical point of view different types of spermicides do not differ much: all of them contain one of three possible working ingredients: nonoxynol-9, octoxynol or menfegol; but nonoxynol is the most widely used ingredient because of its safety and efficiency. 

Statistics says that the failure rate of spermicides is about 20%, though it may drop to about 6% if a particular product is used correctly according to the indications on the label. That is why it is of crucial importance to use spermicides correctly and follow all the instruction from the label.

Each type of spermicides has its own peculiarities of use. For example, spermicides in the form of films, melting tablets, creams or jellies require certain period of time to melt and start acting inside the vagina, but foams are almost instantly dispersed. In case a spermicide was applied, but the sexual intercourse did to take place as planned, a second application should be made because most of the spermicides stay effective only for one or two hours. On the other hand, if several intercourses are to take place even during short period of time spermicide should be used before every single act.

Mostly, it is the way of spermicide use that makes this type of contraception unsuitable for some women. For example, some do not like read the labels and strictly follow all the instructions in the heat of the moment. Others do not like excessive fluid and lubrication in the vagina that may be caused by spermicides. However, medical side effects of this contraceptive method are not really serious: skin irritation is the most common complain.       

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After all, I would not recommend using spermicides as the only type of contraception especially for the cases of unplanned sex with unplanned partners, but it can be an option to think about for those couples, who are worried about the hormonal effect of birth control pills, or those, searching for a modern alternative for old-fashioned condoms. Anyway, when making a final decision in favor of spermicides, do not be lazy to follow all the instructions carefully, or get ready for possible surprises :)


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