Are there alternatives to nonoxynol-9 spermicide?

Originally Published: May 9, 2003
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do you know if there is an alternative to nonoxynol-9 spermicide?? i'm allergic and was wondering if and where i could get it. thank you.

Dear Reader,

Yes, currently two alternatives to nonoxynol-9 (N-9) spermicide, a contraceptive and/or microbicide, exist: oxtoxynol-9 and benzalkonium chloride. If you are in the United States, only oxtoxynol-9 is available, though not nearly as readily as N-9. At the present time, benzalkonium chloride spermicide is only available in Canada.

Each of these spermicidal options is composed of different chemical ingredients and is not available in all forms. N-9 comes in cream, jelly, foam, gel, film, and suppository forms in differing strengths. Octoxynol-9 is available as a cream or jelly only, and comes in two strengths: 1 and 3 percent. Benzalkonium chloride is limited to suppository form.

Irritation or even infection may occur in some users of any spermicide. People who are sensitive to spermicide may feel more comfortable using a weaker spermicidal strength or a different spermicide. Effectiveness may change as a result.

One to 4 percent of spermicide users, however, have allergic reactions, including:

  • burning sensation
  • stinging
  • itching
  • swelling
  • blistering

If discomfort continues despite switching type and/or strength of spermicide, see your health care provider for an exam, diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and a discussion of other possible contraceptive options.