How effective is spermicidal lube?


Women who wish to prevent pregnancy have many contraception options available to them, and deciding on the best one requires research. One of the most important questions to ask is whether or not a particular form of birth control is effective.

If you are considering using a spermicidal lube as your main form of birth control, take some time to learn about its effectiveness, benefits and risks before you do.


According to a study reported on by Family Health International, spermicidal products, including lubricants, have a 26 per cent failure rate for typical use in the first year of use. Planned Parenthood indicates that spermicidal products will fail 15 per cent of the time with perfect use, and 29 per cent of the time with typical use. This is one of the highest failure rates among accepted contraceptive options, but these products do lower the risk of becoming pregnant when no other contraception option is available.

How They Work

Spermicidal lubes are foams or gels containing chemicals that kill or damage sperm with the intention of preventing pregnancy by keeping the sperm from uniting with the egg. The main chemical ingredient in spermicidal lubricants is nonxynol-9 (N-9). In addition to providing the potential for pregnancy protection, these products also work as a vaginal lubricant, enhancing pleasure for the couple during intercourse when natural lubrication is not sufficient. Spermicidal lube does not provide any proven protection against sexually transmitted diseases.


Spermicidal lube provides lubrication as well as contraception. They can be carried discreetly in a pocket or purse. They do not require a prescription from the doctor, nor do they need to be carefully fitted to the individual. Most drugstores carry these products, making them easy to buy, and they are safe to use while breastfeeding. They have no effect on the hormonal balance in a woman's body. Using the spermicide is easy, making this contraception option one that does not interfere with the intercourse experience.


Nonoxynol-9 sometimes irritates the tissue inside a woman's body, increasing her risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or urinary tract infection. It can also cause discomfort for some users, both male and female. The main risk when using a spermicidal lubricant is the risk of pregnancy, as this is one of the least effective contraception methods. Spermicidal lubricants can be messy to apply and may leak out of the vagina after intercourse. Many women use spermicidal products incorrectly since they can be purchased over the counter, which means the woman's doctor does not have the chance to explain proper use to her.


Spermicidal lubricants must be placed into the vagina before having sexual intercourse, and most products need to remain in the vagina for 10 to 15 minutes before intercourse occurs to provide adequate protection. They also lose their effectiveness one hour after insertion, so couples need to pay attention to time and apply more lubricant if an hour has passed. Women using spermicidal lubricants should not douche for at least six hours after having intercourse. Spermicides can be used alongside another form of birth control, like a diaphragm or condom, for maximum effectiveness.