I often get asked if we carry any spermicidal lubricants or condoms…to which I cringe and respond NO. I choose not to order these products on purpose because I take issue with both their effectiveness and side effects. Once I explain my reasoning to my customers, they usually do too. In case you’ve been thinking about using a spermicidal product or are just wondering about them in general, I thought I would pass along a little information that may make you think twice.
A spermicide is a chemical that is immobilizes sperm and is used as a contraceptive. Nonoxynol-9 is the only spermicide available in the United States. It can be used alone, but it is commonly applied to the female condom and added to lubricants. It is also always used in conjunction with a diaphragm, which may be one of the main reasons it is still on the market. If it were outlawed, the options for non-hormonal birth control would be extremely limited.
So why do I have a problem with it you ask? Well, because of a lack of information about sex in our society, most people that use this product are not well informed about it. First, it lacks the effectiveness of many other forms of birth control. If used 100% correctly (which almost no one does), it is still fails 15-20% of the time. That means you have a 1 in 5 chance of getting pregnant, even you do everything right. With typical use, that number falls to 30%. Not very good odds, if I do say so myself. As bad as the statistics are, these numbers are not my main issue with Nonoxynol-9. It’s effects on STD transmission are what I really find disturbing. Spermicides do not claim to be effective in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but what many people using them don’t know is that they can actually increase your risk of contracting them – especially HPV and HIV. In fact, a four year study in Africa showed that people using the Nonoxynol-9 actually had a 50% higher HIV infection rate than those not using it. Scary. But what if you’re in a committed relationship with no risk of STD transmission? Then it’s no problem, right? I disagree. There are other side effects and issues that surround this controversial product. Nonoxynol-9 actually irritates and erodes the cells in the vagina and rectum and can cause lesions on your skin that not only make you much more susceptible to STDs, but can be extremely painful and unsightly as well. Open wounds on your crotch? I don’t think anybody would sign up for that.
So all I ask is please be informed and do your research. There are many other pregnancy prevention methods available that are more effective and have far less risk. People often suggest spermicidal products without any knowledge of the issues that surround them. It’s your body and you should be fully aware of what may happen to it if you choose to use Nonoxynol-9, which, after reading this, I truly hope you don’t.