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Condoms and spermicide are both methods of contraception; that is, they are used to prevent conception and pregnancy. Condoms are also used to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV. Neither condoms nor spermicide used alone are 100% effective as a contraceptive, but used together, the contraceptive effectiveness may be increased. It should be stressed, however, that even when used together, the effect is still not 100%.
There are many types of condoms available. They include various sizes, flavors, colors and materials. The male condom, which is placed over the penis, and the female condom, which lines the vagina, provide a physical barrier against sperm. The passage of organisms that may cause STDs may also be prevented. Proper condom use is recommended to prevent the epidemic spread of diseases such as HIV.
Spermicide provides a chemical barrier. There are a number of different spermicides available, including nonoxynol-9. They act by immobilizing and killing sperm. Spermicides are available in different forms, including spermicide foam and gel. They are inserted into the vagina prior to sexual intercourse.
When used alone, spermicide use may result in a 67% to 78% reduction in risk of pregnancy if applied correctly and consistently. The instructions in the package insert should be followed closely. Spermicides may take 10 to 15 minutes to become effective after application.
When used together, condoms and spermicide may have an increased reduction in risk of pregnancy. The absolute risk reduction is difficult to determine, as consistency and correct use of both forms of contraception is difficult to monitor. Some condoms may have spermicide lubricant on them, but the amount is usually very little.
From a risk reduction of pregnancy point of view, using condoms and spermicide together will reduce the risk more than using one or the other alone, when used correctly. When looking at risk reduction of transmission of STDs, such as HIV, using condoms and spermicide may not reduce the risk further than that of using only condoms. Spermicides may cause irritation of the vaginal wall in some women, and it is thought that this may allow for easier transmission of STDs.
Condoms and spermicide effectiveness depends almost entirely on their correct and consistent use. They should be used, whether alone or together, on each and every occasion of sexual intercourse. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, as are unplanned pregnancies. Both may be prevented by practicing safe sex using consistent contraception. It is important to remember, however, that neither of these methods are 100% foolproof.
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