What are Contraceptive Gels?
Spermicide is a method of hormone-free contraception that works by preventing sperm cells from fertilizing an egg. Spermicides contain chemicals that damage sperm and prevent pregnancy by obstructing the entrance to the cervix. Once obstructed, sperm are unable to swim through the reproductive tract to reach the egg. Spermicides are on-demand methods that come in many different forms including creams, gels, films, and suppositories.
Spermicides are most effective when used consistently before vaginal sex and are often paired with other methods to increase their effectiveness. Spermicides are about 72% effective at preventing pregnancy when used as the only method of contraception. However, despite its effectiveness, there are many advantages to contracepting with spermicides. Typically, spermicides are inexpensive, easy to apply, and available at most retail drugstores and supermarkets. Additionally, spermicides can work as lubricating agents during intercourse and can be acquired without visiting your healthcare provider.
In 2020, the FDA approved a new non-hormonal prescription birth control gel for egg producers. Although it is not a spermicide, Phexxi is used as an on-demand contraceptive that is inserted into the vagina before sex. Phexxi lowers the pH in the vagina, which makes it harder for sperm to swim through the reproductive tract. Once sperm’s ability to move is inhibited, the likelihood of an egg cell being fertilized is drastically reduced. Phexxi is similar to other spermicidal gels in that its effectiveness is increased when used alongside other contraceptive methods.
There are many different forms of contraceptive gels that are being developed for sperm producers. In early 2022, researchers at the University of Utah were testing a contraceptive gel for men that decreases sperm production. The hormonal gel, Nestorone®/Testosterone, is applied daily to the shoulders and upper arm and has been shown to reduce sperm production while maintaining healthy levels of testosterone among users.
For more information about novel non-hormonal male contraceptives, please visit our website to learn more.
Nuts & Bolts: Gels
Boyers, L. (2020, June 18). FDA approves first Non-Hormonal Birth Control Gel. Verywell Health. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/fda-approves-non-hormonal-birth-control-gel-4869870
Kay, C. (2021, May 31). Birth control gel: An expert weighs in. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control/how-does-birth-control-gel-work
Spermicide and contraceptive gel: Spermicidal lube, gel & foam. Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/spermicide
Spermicide: How to use, benefits, risks & effectiveness. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, March 11). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22493-spermicide
For additional publications related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our publications page:
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