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A vaginal contraceptive film is a thin water-soluble film that contains a spermicide and is used as a form of birth control. Spermicide is a substance that kills sperm, but its effectiveness is generally not good enough to use alone. When combined with a film rather than a lubricant or condom, it is placed over the cervix of the woman’s vagina by using a finger to push it back. A partner can help properly place a vaginal contraceptive film, but it should not be pushed back with a penis or touched with wet hands. The effectiveness of vaginal contraceptive film is very poor compared to other birth control methods, even when used perfectly.
The steps to properly utilizing vaginal contraceptive film as a birth control method are often considered important by distributors and family planning advocates. One step is for the person applying the film to clean and dry her hands carefully, as the film is designed to dissolve on contact with moisture and can stick to moisture on the hands as well. The second step is to fold the film into a rectangle in a way that is conducive to fitting it over a finger, but still remaining easily removable when it is inserted into the vagina. Lastly, and sometimes considered the most important by some, is to insert it as far into the vagina as possible, with the goal of it being placed at the entrance to the cervix. If the film is inserted shallowly into the vagina, it may offer little contraceptive benefit, if any, because the spermicide may not come in contact with the sperm it is being deployed to destroy.
When the instructions are followed perfectly, these films have an 18 percent failure rate, but typical use has a 29 percent failure rate. Due to this, most health professionals advise against using the film as the primary method of birth control; instead, they often suggest using the films as a backup method in combination with a male or female condom, birth control pill, or a contraceptive sponge. In the early 1990s when vaginal contraceptive film was gaining in popularity, some providers of the film advised using two films to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This does not actually work, and condoms should be used to protect against STDs instead. In fact, a vaginal contraceptive film can increase the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from an infected partner by irritating the vagina.