Three Things to Know About Contraceptive Gels


Contraceptive gels are just one of the many contraceptive spermicides available for use by couples who do not wish to become pregnant.

Contraceptive gels come in a variety of textures and do their work by killing sperm on contact. They are typically used by inserting a filled applicator into the vagina near to the cervix and pressing a plunger to deposit the gel deep in the vagina. It is generally recommended that they be used no more than a half hour prior to having sexual intercourse, although at least one brand, Advantage 24, releases the active ingredient in contraceptive gels over a span of 24 hours.

Here are three important things to know about contraceptive gels.

Contraceptive Gels Can Cause Bladder Infections

Women who use contraceptive gels tend to have a higher frequency of urinary tract infections (UTI). While this won't be the case for most women who use such gels, for those who do, it is likely a consequence of chemicals in spermicide upsetting the bladder's bacterial balance by killing some of the bacteria residing there.

When Used Correctly, Contraceptive Gels are 85 Percent Effective

Compared to the birth control pill, which has a success rate of at least 99 percent, contraceptive gels don't do nearly as good a job, which is why it is often recommended that they be used in conjunction with another contraceptive method. Even when used properly all the time, 15 out of 100 women will get pregnant using contraceptive gels, according to Planned Parenthood.

When using gels improperly, the odds are much worse: in those cases, contraceptive failure reaches 29 percent, meaning 29 out of 100 women will become pregnant.

Contraceptive Gels Might Make A Woman Prone to STIs

When used alone, contraceptive gels offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That of course is not their purpose; their purpose is to kill sperm and prevent the potential for pregnancy.

However, not only do these gels not protect you from STIs, they might actually make you more prone to catching them if your partner is infected. The active chemical in most gels is nonoxynol-9, and in some females the spermicide can irritate the vaginal walls, breaking down mucus in the vagina and creating a path for infections to enter the body. Some women meanwhile can have minor symptoms similar to an allergic reaction to nonoxynol-9, possibly leading to a rash and irritation—the kinds of vulnerabilities that STIs can exploit.


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