Spermicides: Simplicity and safety are major assets

 The answer is yes to all 3 of the following questions concerning vaginal chemical spermicides: 1) are they effective; 2) do they make a useful contribution to voluntary family planning programs; and 3) is there any role for vaginal chemical spermicides.  If used properly, spermicides can be more than 95% effective, and they are about 85% effective even if they are not used properly all the time.  They also meet the folowing important needs that other methods may fail to meet: 1) they are safe, with no proven systemic side effects or even any serious local reactions; 2) they are readily available from commercial sources; 3) they are useful as a simple and easily understood introduction to fertility control; 4) they are convenient for use by couples who have intercourse frequently; 5) they are appropriate for short-term use or for adjunct use with other methods; 6) they are acceptable to women who might not otherwise use family planning; and 7) they are probably to some degree protective against venereal disease and certain other sexually related infections.  The spermicidal products that are available come in 5 different forms: creams, jellies, foams in pressurized containers, foaming tablets, and suppositories.  Each consists of a relatively inert base material which physically blocks the passage of sperm and simultaneously serves as a carrier for a chemically active ingredient which incapacitates the sperm before it can reach the ovum.  Discussion focus is on histor , usage, acceptability, measuring effectiveness, protection against infection, and research and development.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program