The goal of contraception (or birth control) is to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. The majority of methods of contraception enable sexually active couples to temporarily avoid pregnancy. Permanent birth control is accomplished through sterilization. Be sure you know and understand the different types of birth control available to you, the risks and benefits of each, and any side effects, so that you can make an informed choice.
MoonDragon's Contraception Methods Compared
The vaginal spermicide (in various forms) is a chemical compound that contains one ingredient that kills sperm and another that provides a harmless base to carry the spermicidal agent. Most commercial spermicides contain Nonoxynol-9 which gives some protection from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), including chlamydia and gonorrhea. However the effect of spermicides on HIV transmission is still being studies. The base material is heavy and offers added protection by blocking the opening into the cervix. The choice between a foam, jelly, cream, tablet, gel, inserts or suppositories, and film will generally depend on personal preference. Most studies reveal that the tablets and suppositories are not as effective as other forms of chemical barriers. Foams are probably the most effective since they spread more evenly to coat the vagina and cervix. I have included some natural spermicide suggestions, but there's no data as to how reliable they may be in preventing pregnancy.
Jellies come in tubes. Squeeze the product into the applicator. Put the applicator into your vagina as far as it will go. Push the end of the applicator to empty the product into the vagina. The product must reach the cervix to be effective. Jellies provide immediate protection. If you are using jelly alone, then the protection lasts for 1 hour. If sexual intercourse lasts longer than that, or if you have sex again, apply another dose. If you are using it with a diaphragm, the protection lasts for up to 6 hours. See the diaphragm for more information. If you find that this product is irritating to you or your partner, you should try a different product or a different type of spermicide, or you may want to try a different method of birth control.
Spermicidal creams come in a tube and are used the same way as the jelly spermicides (see above).
Unwrap the suppository. Then put it as far as you can into your vagina. It should be placed as close to the cervix as possible. Suppositories take 10 to 30 minutes to be effective. The protection lasts from 10 to 30 minutes after insertion up to 1 hour after insertion. Read the product label carefully. If it has been longer than 1 hour since you put it in and you are still having sex, you should put in another suppository.
Foam comes in a small container. Shake the foam can hard, for about 20 shakes. Then, put the product in an applicator, and empty it into the vagina. The product must reach the cervix to be effective. Foams provide immediate protection, and continue to provide protection for an hour after the foam was inserted. If it has been longer than 1 hour since you put it in and you are still having sex, you should put in another dose. If you have sex again, apply another dose.
Foam is placed into the woman's vagina using an applicator and has two effects. It kills or destroys sperm and blocks the man's fluids from entering the cervical canal. Foam s tops sperm from getting to the egg. Among typical couples who initiate use of vaginal spermicide, 29 percent will experience an accidental pregnancy in the first year. If vaginal spermicide is used consistently and correctly, about 18 percent will become pregnant. Foam is most is effective when used in combination with condoms. Complete information about this contraceptive is available through a family planning association or clinic, a clinician or the package insert accompanying the foam.
- A woman should practice putting foam into her vagina in advance. This will make it easier at the time of intercourse.
- You can't be sure if there is enough foam in the can to protect against the next act of intercourse. It may help to keep an extra handy.
Advantages of Contraceptive Foam:
- Foam gives the woman control over use of a contraceptive.
- It is available over the counter without a visit to a clinician.
- It can be put into the vagina up to 20 minutes before sexual intercourse, but it is also effective immediately.
- Foam is safe, has no hormones and is immediately reversible.
- The man's penis can remain inside the vagina after ejaculation.
Disadvantages of Contraceptive Foam:
- Foam can be irritating to the vagina, and some people feel that it is messy.
- It may not be protective against HIV/AIDS. To increase effectiveness, use condoms.
- Some women do not like placing an applicator up into the vagina.
- The taste of foam is unpleasant.
- The container carrying the foam is large and some may find it embarrassing to carry around.
Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF)
Vaginal contraceptive film (VCF) is a vaginal spermicide, a 2-inch by 2-inch paper-thin, translucent sheet that contains a chemical that kills sperm (Nonoxynol-9).
MoonDragon's Contraception Information: Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF)
The effectiveness for spermicidal birth control ranges from 79 to 97 percent.
Do not involve the hormones used in some other forms of birth control that can have side effects. Causes no serious health problems.
Inexpensive and easily obtainable.
Do not require a prescription.
Do provide some degree of lubrication that is helpful for some couples during sexual intercourse.
Do not interfere with sensation during sex (as a condom does).
There is nothing to remove later.
Can be used as a supplement to other methods of birth control (male and female condoms; diaphragms; cervical caps).
May be used when needed.
Offer some protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Not 100 percent effective for birth control.
Some of the products may not fully dissolve in the vagina and cause friction during sexual intercourse.
The product must be applied before intercourse and left in the vaginal tract for at least 6 hours afterward (you cannot bathe or shower).
Some people have minor allergic reaction or irritation to the products, switching brands may help. Itching and burning are symptoms of a possible allergy.
They can be unpleasant to the taste during oral sex.
They can be messy with resulting vaginal discharge or leakage after sexual intercourse if finished.
Requires touching of their genitals.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL SPERMICIDES:
Add more spermicide BEFORE each time you have intercourse. To kill sperm, the spermicide must be put in before you have sex. Most spermicides remain effective for up to 1 hour when used alone. You must add more spermicide if more than 1 hour has passed and you have not had sex yet. If you plan on having sex a second or third time, you must always add more spermicide before each act of intercourse. Always read the instructions with the type of spermicide you decide to use. Follow those instructions. Timing for each type of spermicide varies. Some are ready to use as soon as you put them in, others need to melt first. These given here are very basic and may differ from the product inserts.
Make sure your hands are clean before putting your finger into the vagina.
Fill the applicator with the product to be used. Current commercial products available use either nonoxynol-9 or octoxynol-3 as the spermicidal agent.
Gently insert the applicator as far up into the vagina as you can make it go. This will be easier to do if you lie on your back.
Depress the plunger or squeeze the tube. If an aerosol foam product is used, shake can vigorously before use to insure an even distribution of the spermicidal chemical.
Wash the applicator if one was used. Use plain soap and water and dry it.
Do not apply the product sooner than 1 hour before intercourse. You need not wait longer than 2 or 3 minutes after the application (except for suppositories which take 10 minutes to melt) before starting intercourse.
Wait at least 6 hours after intercourse before showering or bathing, or 8 hours for douching, if desired.
For proper use, always follow the directions that come with each product if they vary from these instructions.
MORE SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS DEPENDING ON TYPE OF SPERMICIDE
- Shake the can at least 20 times. Shake the can well before taking the foam out of the can.
- Fill the applicator with foam. Stand the can up on a level surface. Put the applicator on top of the can. Press the applicator down very gently until it is full. Take the applicator away to stop the flow of the foam.
- Put the foam into the vagina. This is done much like you put in a tampon. Gently slide the applicator into the vagina until it reaches the cervix, and then withdraw it about one-half inch. Depress the plunger fully, and then withdraw it. Pushing in the plunger of the applicator will release the foam over the cervix.
- Put the foam in up to 1 hour before intercourse. You can have sex as soon as you put the foam in. If you wait more than l hour, you will need to apply the foam again. The exact amount of time that the foam lasts depends on the brand.
- Follow these steps every time you have intercourse. Also, follow these steps if more than an hour has passed since you put in the contraceptive foam.
Follow Up: After intercourse, use a mini-pad or a panty-liner to catch any foam that might drip out. If you decide to douche, wait at least eight hours after intercourse before doing so.
Contraceptive Cream or Gel (contraceptive jelly):
- Fill the applicator full of the cream or gel and put it into the vagina. To do this, remove the cap from the tube of contraceptive cream or gel. Screw the applicator onto the tube and squeeze the tube. Then put the cap back on the tube. (One brand of contraceptive gel comes in a pre-filled applicator.) The contraceptive cream or gel are inserted with the applicator, in the same way as the foam.
- Put the cream or gel into the vagina before intercourse. Like the foam, you can have sex as soon as it is put in. To kill sperm, the spermicide must be put in before you have sex. Most spermicides remain effective for up to 1 hour when used alone. For these brands, you must add more spermicide if more than 1 hour has passed and you have not had sex yet. However, if you plan to have sex a second or third time, you must always add more spermicide before each act of intercourse.
- Follow these steps every time you have intercourse. Also follow these steps if more than an hour has passed since you put in the cream or gel.
Contraceptive Vaginal Inserts (contraceptive suppositories):
- Take off the wrapping and put the insert in before intercourse. Read the package to find exactly how much time the insert needs to melt. It may take from 10 to 15 minutes, or sometimes even longer. The exact amount of time you need to wait for the insert to melt depends on the brand used. The insert needs to melt and cover the cervix before you have intercourse.
- Put the insert into the vagina. This can be done with a finger or an applicator. Either way, it should be pushed up to the cervix. Don't use the tip of the penis to insert it because there is not enough melting time. And, it might not be put in the right place.
- Use a finger to check that it has melted before intercourse. You can put your finger into your vagina to feel if it has fully melted. If some of it is still hard, wait a few minutes and check again. Don't have intercourse before it has melted.
- Follow the same steps every time you have intercourse. Also, follow these steps if more than 1 hour has passed since you put in the vaginal contraceptive insert.
Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF):
- Put the film in between 5 and 15 minutes before intercourse. The film usually needs 15 minutes to soften and cover the cervix. After this time has passed, you can have sex.
- Put the film into the vagina. With dry fingers remove one film from the package. Fold the film over your middle finger. Use that finger to push the film up into your vagina until it reaches the cervix. Do this swiftly so the film doesn't stick to your fingers. Do not use the tip of the penis to insert it.
- Follow these steps every time you have intercourse. Also, if you wait more than 1 hour, put in another piece of contraceptive film.
Natural Contraceptive Spermicides:
There are no guarantees that these work but they have been suggested by various individuals. I, personally, have never tried them. If becoming pregnant isn't a major problem in your life (in other words, if you get pregnant it won't be a life altering or threatening concern) and you are in a position to accept a pregnancy, should it occur, then you may consider giving them a try. If you are simply having casual sex and do not want to get pregnant then I would probably chose to avoid using these methods since there are no defined studies as to their reliability in preventing pregnancy.
These natural methods of contraceptive spermicides change the pH of the vagina making it an "acidic hostile environment" for sperm to survive in. When we are infertile, our bodies naturally produce a thicker and drier secretion whose acidic properties act as natural spermicides. Sperm need an alkaline environment, such as that found in fertile mucus, for survival. Caution should be taken when using these suggestions... they may prove to be irritating to the vaginal walls and can upset the natural flora of the vagina.
- 1 Tablespoon of Aloe Vera Gel mixed with 3 drops lemon juice (it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours). Lemon juice is considered to be a "pretty good" spermicide, but you may need more than 3 drops in this recipe. The aloe vera gel is a medium for the lemon juice.
- A very old-time advice for birth control was a few tablespoons of lemon juice in a 1/4 cup or so douche. Some women just put a slice of lemon up inside just before having sex.
- Apple cider vinegar douches were really popular and "sort of" effective as a means of contraceptive spermicide.
- For a natural contraceptive jelly to put inside diaphragms and cervical caps, use 1 teaspoon of vitamin C crystals in 2 tablespoons of KY jelly or equal parts of honey and lemon juice. These were suggested by a midwife and by women taking an herbal class with her and had been used for years by these women.
- Another natural spermicide consists of at least 14 drops of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, mixed in with a bit of honey. The lemon juice kills the sperm, and the honey makes it taste better. This recipe is recommended for use with a diaphragm, cervical cap or a condom. This recipe was obtained from Sister Zeus: Research on Natural Sperm-Killers. She also has a few herbs that have some degree of spermicidal activity.
Lemons for Birth Control?
10-26-02: After investigating traditional contraceptive techniques, an eminent Australian-based scientist has proved that lemon juice diluted five to one with water kills HIV and sperm within seconds.
Roger Short's findings will be made public in a scientific paper read at The Ninth International Symposium on Spermatology at the University of the Western Cape next week.
Symposium convener Professor Gerhard van der Horst is excited by the discovery of a cheap, universally available, non-technical way to block HIV transmission, and describes Short's paper as "a milestone".
A woman whose husband insists on "nyama to nyama" can protect herself against HIV transmission with a small sponge and watered-down lemon juice, perhaps leaving him none the wiser. Men may also anoint themselves with the acidic juice to prevent transmission.
The abstract of the paper says: "Historically, lemon juice on a sponge, or half a lemon placed over the cervix, was widely used as an effective contraceptive. We have shown that 20 percent lemon juice (final concentration) in human semen irreversibly immobilises 100 percent of sperm in less than 30 seconds. A similar concentration also rapidly inactivates HIV. Thus intra-vaginal lemon juice might provide a cheap, readily available and extremely effective way of stopping the sexual transmission of HIV, whilst also providing contraception."
The paper refers to additional strategies, including circumcision for men, which more than halves the risk of HIV infection. The virus appears to enter the penis via specific HIV-receptive Langerhans cells on the inner surface of the foreskin. The vagina has its own Langerhans cells that are also the main entry point for HIV in women.
Thickening the vaginal epithelium by estrogen administration could provide cheap, safe and effective HIV protection for women, but drug firms are not interested, says Short.
Based at the University of Melbourne, Short is also professor-at-large at Cornell University in the United States, and a visiting fellow of Green College, Oxford. His career began in England at Cambridge in 1956. He was co-editor and principal author of the eight-volume Reproduction in Mammals published by Cambridge University Press from 1972 onward, which was translated into six languages.
The lemon juice breakthrough is not the first scientific bombshell he has lobbed. He was part of the Cambridge University team that crossed a camel with a llama in Dubai. He also co-authored a physiological study presenting strong evidence that the elephant was an aquatic mammal in an earlier evolutionary phase. He has published more than 300 scientific papers and, with Dr Malcolm Potts, wrote a bestseller aimed at the layman: Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1999).
Short's interest in the transmission of HIV infection arose naturally from his research activities of the past 20 years, which focused on contraception, the evolution of human reproduction and the causes of the Earth's overpopulation.
These are the types of therapies many people love -- inexpensive, completely natural and no side effects. While this method is appealing on many levels it would certainly seem that this approach needs careful scrutiny as to its effectiveness.
However, one variation of the above might be to use half of a lemon and scoop out some of the insides but retain some of the actual lemon and juice and use it as a "cap" to actually cover the cervix. Not only would this serve as a barrier to the sperm from actually entering the uterus, but, as the article above suggests, the lemon juice appears to act as an effective spermicidal agent.
Until further data is in, it seems like this approach is safe enough and potentially effective enough to considering if you pregnancy avoidance is not an absolute must.
Medical Post: Ancient Contraception
Planned Parenthood: A History of Contraceptive Methods
Sister Zeus: Fertility Awareness, Herbal Abortion, & Herbal Contraception
Sister Zeus: Using Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) to Prevent Conception
Sister Zeus: Herbal Contraceptive of the Ancient World
Sister Zeus: Contraceptive Herbs
SIDE EFFECTS & COMPLICATIONS
Allergy to the spermicide. Both men and women can have an allergic reaction that causes a rash, itching or burning. This may be in the vaginal area or on the penis. Changing the brand or type of spermicide can sometimes take care of this problem.
There are no serious side effects associated with the use of spermicides.
NOTIFY YOUR MIDWIFE OR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF...
You are interested in using a spermicide for contraception and want additional information.
You have an allergic reaction to a spermicide.
You have any unwanted or unusual symptoms.
Contraception Methods Compared
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