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How Do Spermicidal Condoms Work?

author image Nicki Wolf
Nicki Wolf has been writing health and human interest articles since 1986. Her work has been published at various cooking and nutrition websites. Wolf has an extensive background in medical/nutrition writing and online content development in the nonprofit arena. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University.
How Do Spermicidal Condoms Work?
Spermicidal condoms kill sperm, helping prevent pregnancy. Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Condoms comes in many varieties, and both female and male condoms can include spermicidal protection. Some condom manufacturers produce condoms that are pre-coated with spermicide to make them more effective protection against pregnancy, most often a spermicide called nonoxynol-9. When used correctly, use of spermicide with a condom is up to 97 percent effective against pregnancy.

Function of Spermicide

Spermicide works by inactivating, killing or damaging sperm and come in several forms, including cream, jelly, foam or foaming tablet. Spermicide does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases and has one of the lowest rates of pregnancy prevention success when used as the only contraception method, with a pregnancy rate of 26 percent.

All forms of spermicide are effective for approximately one hour after application. Spermicide can be used alone, with a condom or with any form of barrier contraception, including the diaphragm or cervical cap.

Function of Condoms

Male condoms worn on the penis and female condoms worn inside the vagina and used correctly are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms work by preventing semen and pre-ejaculate from entering the vagina.

Condoms can be made of latex, polyurethane or lambskin. Most condoms that are coated in spermicide are made of latex, and the U.S. Federal Drug Administration recommends the use of latex condoms only because of their superior ability to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Condoms come in a variety of texture, thicknesses, colors and flavors. They need to be stored in a cool, dry place.

How Spermicide Works with Condoms

Latex condoms can be coated with spermicide to increase the effectiveness of pregnancy prevention. The spermicide acts as a backup contraception method in case the condom breaks or tears during sexual intercourse.


There is some controversy about the effectiveness of spermicidal condoms. Contracept.org says spermicidal condoms have not proven more effective, while Planned Parenthood recommends the use of spermicide with condoms for effectiveness. A pamphlet from Harvard University indicates the effectiveness of a condom used correctly is 98 percent, whereas a spermicidal condom used correctly is 95 percent to 97 percent effective because of the potential for spermicide to damage the latex.


Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates nonoxynol-9 might increase the risk of contracting some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This is possible because of the potential for spermcide to irritate and cause micro-abrasions in the vagina.

Additionally, an article in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" suggests a connection between spermicidal condoms and urinary tract infections in women. Spermicidal condoms used for anal sex also might irritate tissue and increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Some women report sensitivities or allergies to both latex and spermicide.

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