Can Spermicide Get You Pregnant? Birth Control

Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
Can Spermicide Get You Pregnant
Spermicide is one of the less effective methods of preventing pregnancy with a success rate of 72% and a failure rate of 28%

Although spermicide can reduce your chances of getting pregnant, it is not an effective method of birth control when used alone. 

Spermicide is one of the less effective methods of preventing pregnancy with a success rate of 72% and a failure rate of 28%. Spermicide can be more effective (failure rate of 3%-10%) when used in combination with other birth control methods (condoms, diaphragms, or cervical caps).

What is spermicide?

Spermicide is a type of contraceptive product that is inserted into the vagina before genital contact or sexual intercourse. It is used as a barrier method of birth control in combination with at least one other method.

Spermicides are available in different forms:

  • Gels
  • Creams
  • Foams
  • Condoms
  • Films
  • Sponge
  • Suppositories (soft cylinders that melt after insertion into the vagina)

Vaginal spermicides have the following characteristics:

  • Are inserted deep into the vagina just before having sex
  • Need to be used correctly every time you have sex
  • Need to be placed in the vagina up to 30 minutes before sex (many types are effective for only an hour after insertion)
  • Must be reapplied each time before sex
  • Are available without a prescription

How does spermicide work?

Spermicides work in different ways—some mix with the vaginal fluid to form a thicker gel to block the cervix, whereas others focus on preventing the sperm from moving.

Most spermicides contain the chemical nonoxynol-9 and work by:

  • Damaging and killing sperm in the vagina, thus making sperm unavailable to travel from the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes, where fertilization takes place
  • Creating a barrier or blocking the cervix that kills sperm or makes them immovable, preventing them from entering the uterus and fertilizing an egg

Certain types of spermicides are effective immediately, whereas other products may take 15-30 minutes to activate.

What are the pros and cons of spermicide?


  • Inexpensive and affordable
  • Easy to use and apply
  • Available at most stores
  • Does not contain hormones
  • Acts as a lubricant
  • Considered safe for pregnant women
  • No association with birth defects (if an accidental pregnancy occurs)


  • Must be used correctly and according to the instructions on the label
  • Needs to be applied each time before sex
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • May cause irritation and pain
  • May increase the risk of getting an HIV infection
  • Has been linked to an increased risk of urinary tract infections


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What are the health risks of using spermicide?

Potential risks or downsides of using spermicide include the following:

If you are using a spermicide and notice the following, contact a doctor:

What are other types of birth control methods?

  • Reversible
  • Long-acting hormonal methods
    • Contraceptive implants
    • Hormonal and nonhormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • Irreversible or permanent
  • Emergency
Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Spermicide (Vaginal Route).