Scouting For Spermicides

The list of substances women have placed in the vagina to prevent pregnancy is endless. In the early days, it was common to douche the vagina with wine mixed with garlic and fennel, a plant with yellow flowers. This was done by means of instruments made from the horns of animals or the bills of birds. Others exposed the vagina to fumes or gases to stop pregnancy. Various douching solutions were recommended after sex ranging from alum to green tea. Even today, some couples still believe they can prevent pregnancy by douching with vinegar or Coca-Cola. None of this, of course, has any scientific basis. In addition to being an unreliable means of contraception, douching can harm the vagina.

Fortunately, spermicides have replaced douching as a form of birth control. They are more effective and less likely to irritate the vagina. They are also applied immediately before intercourse - not after. Spermicides are available in cream, foam, suppository or jelly. They are inserted in the vagina right in front of the cervix with the help of a small instrument called a plunger. This acts as a barrier against sperm and can be bought without a prescription.

Whether you use cream or jelly is a matter of personal preference. It's a good idea to stick to a brand you've already tried to avoid hassles in the future or an allergic reaction in the form of itching, burning or a rash. Price and complications are other factors to consider.

"Most brands contain similar, equally effective, ingredients. Creams tend to provide more lubrication than jellies. Most spermicides have a slight fragrance and a chemical flavor. Some have recently come on the market with fruit flavors and fragrances; others are now available without any flavor or fragrance," according to Dr. Raphael Jewelewicz in "The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide."

A contraceptive foam works the same way but can be used alone. It usually comes in a small aerosol can. The foam is applied near the cervix one to three hours before intercourse, but there is no way of knowing how long this protection will last. Can you trust spermicides to prevent pregnancy? Used alone, they are about 75 to 85 percent effective but some ingredients may fail to cover the cervix properly. To play safe, your best bet is to combine these products with a diaphragm or cervical cap. The effectiveness of spermicides, however, may be lower than believed since there are no studies to support this.

"There are no published human studies comparing the effectiveness of spermicides with other methods and no studies on whether gels or creams work better than foams or film. Researchers say the estimated failure rate for 'perfect' use (which is 3 percent) may be too low; it's based mostly on how effectively spermicidal kill sperm in a lab dish," said Deborah Franklin in Health magazine.

To maximize the spermicide's effectiveness, here are some tips from Franklin:

Wait the prescribed time after application to allow spermicide to disperse (for suppositories or film) and add more spermicide before additional intercourse if more than an hour has elapsed.
Use the recommended amount and shake the foam can vigorously (the more bubbles, the better the protection). Use a condom or diaphragm, at least during the week mid-cycle when ovulation is likely. The first day of your period is day one of your cycle. (Next: Contraceptive tablets & sponges.)

To enjoy sex in your later years, keep fit, eat right and love life. That simple advice can go a long way in preserving your sex life. For extra help, take Fematril, a safe and natural female sexual enhancer that can stimulate your mind and body. For details, go to

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine
By Sharon A Bell
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