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GLOSSARY

Spermicide

Spermicide is a contraceptive substance that is inserted into the vagina prior to sexual intercourse and is designed to destroy sperm. This substance blocks sperm from moving into the cervix and uterus, thus preventing pregnancy. It does so by either immobilizing or outright killing sperm using chemicals such as nonoxynol-9.

Many different types of spermicides exist, including gels, creams, foams, and suppositories. Typically, couples can engage in sexual intercourse immediately after the spermicide is applied. However, it is important to note that it is still possible to achieve pregnancy using spermicide, so it should be used in conjunction with other birth control measures, such as condoms or a diaphragm.

Spermicide and male fertility

Spermicide does not affect the future fertility of the male or female, and can simply be used as a temporary preventative measure against pregnancy. This substance only blocks and kills sperm during the act of sexual intercourse. Using spermicide alone, however, is not the most effective way to prevent pregnancy.

Risks of spermicide

The main risk when using a spermicide is that pregnancy is still possible. While such substances greatly reduce the chances of sperm fertilizing the egg, fertilization is still possible. Consequently, it is recommended to use this spermicide in conjunction with other contraceptive methods. Beyond this, to ensure the spermicide is effective, patients should not douche for at least eight hours after intercourse. Lastly, the nonoxynol-9 chemical used in spermicide increases the chances of contracting an STI from an infected partner and may cause vaginal irritation.

History of spermicide

The first known application of spermicide dates back to 1850 BCE, and was described in the Kahun Papyrus, a collection of ancient Egyptian texts regarding mathematical and medical topics. Spermicide was later discussed in 1500 BCE, with Egyptians recommending a mixture of seed wool, acacia, dates, and honey to prevent pregnancy. Greek physician Soranus furthered the discussion on spermicides in the second century, concocting a number of acidic formulas. It was not until the 1800s, however, that laboratories started testing substances and their actual impact on sperm motility.
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