So What Exactly Is Nonoxynol-9 Spermicide?

So What Exactly Is Nonoxynol-9 Spermicide?

  • N-9 is a chemical in a category of compounds called "surfactants". Surfactants work by disturbing the cell membrane.
  • N-9 is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter ("OTC") spermicidal products available in the United States and many other countries.
  • Initially it was thought that N-9 was also an effective microbicide against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV (AIDS). In vitro (laboratory) studies show that N-9 produces bactericidal and virucidal effects by disrupting the cell membrane and the viral envelope. But recent in vivo (in people) studies are changing the way people think.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • Although Nonoxynol-9 has been shown to increase the risk of HIV infection when used frequently by women at high risk of infection, it remains a contraceptive option for women at low risk.
  • Nonoxynol-9 offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
  • There is no evidence that condoms lubricated with Nonoxynol-9 are any more effective in preventing pregnancy or infection than condoms lubricated with silicone, and such condoms should no longer be promoted. However, it is better to use an Nonoxynol-9 lubricated condom than no condom at all.
  • Nonoxynol-9 should not be used rectally.

The Centers Of Disease Control (CDC) Report

Letter on Nonoxynol-9 From the CDC

Fact #1 - Nonoxyol-9 Does Not Kill HIV

For years many have believed that Nonoxynol-9 kills HIV. This is not true. Here are some articles dispelling that rumor.

Fact #2 - Nonoxynol-9 May Actually Increase Your Risk Of Acquiring HIV

There is evidence that supports an increase risk of HIV when using Nonoxynol-9 Spermicide. Non-9 is a powerful detergent. It is so strong that it can actually irritate the vaginal walls and rectal cavity causing a path for the virus to enter your system. Here is more information on this.

It appears that when used frequently in the vagina, contraceptive products containing Nonoxynol-9 can cause disruption of the vaginal epithelium (cell wall) - a condition that may increase a woman's risk of becoming infected with HIV. The impact of N-9 on the vaginal epithelial appears to be dose-related. Small infrequent doses of N-9 (once a day or less) appear to cause little or no disruption of the epithelium, whereas more frequent, larger doses consistently cause disruption.

(WHO/CONRAD Technical Consultation on Nonoxynol-9, June 2002)

Fact #3 - Nonoxynol-9 Doesn't Decrease Pregnancy Rates

According by a report from the World Health Organization (WHO). There is no proof that using Non-9 will reduce your risk of becoming pregnant. Using a condom properly is over 98% effective.

Some heterosexual couples seek out N-9 lubricated condoms with the hope of achieving back up protection against pregnancy in case of condom breakage or slippage. However, there are no data to substantiate whether or not the amount of N-9 bio-available on condoms is adequate to provide back up protection from unwanted pregnancy. (There is considerable less N-9 on condoms than in most over the counter contraceptive products).

Fact #4 - Nonoxynol-9 Doesn't Protect You From STDs & HIV

Three randomized controlled trials have failed to detect any statistically significant effect of N-9 against common bacterial STDS (Roddy et al. 1998; Van Damme 2000; Roddy et al. 2002). As a result, the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have concluded that products containing N-9 should not be promoted for STD protection.

My girlfriend and I first started having sex about 3 months ago, using Trojan condoms with this spermicide in it. After the very first time, she experienced some irritation in the vagina and I had a small irritation on my penis. We continued having sex using this same condom with this spermicide in it and we continued to experience really bad irritation. It would go away in a day or two, but immediately return after having sex. I freaked and thought somehow we had given each other an STD, which didn't make much sense because we had used condoms, and we were also having very similar irritations, like a rash with little sores. We were unaware that this spermicide was the culprit. Instead we changed lubrications and condoms, BUT we even bought another brand that had this spermicide in it, figuring that we should just be extra careful, not knowing this was the cause. Well, that was the last time we did that, because after we had sex with those condoms, I contracted a big red, irritated rash right on the tip of my penis (near the opening) and it freaked me out. I went online and did research and wouldn't you know it, this is what came up! We have since changed condoms (after letting my penis heal for close to a week!!) and got back to doing the humpty and having fun. It's only been once but so far so good.

Thanks for this info! You saved my penis, and my relationship. ~ New York, NY (Source - The 3-8-2004)

Additional Articles

FDA Failure to Update Nonoxynol-9 Labels

Is it safe for women to continue using N-9 containing products, for birth control?

Evidence suggests that it is safe for women at low or no risk of HIV to continue to use spermicides containing N-9 for birth control purposes. But remember, any woman that has sex is at risk for contracting an STD or HIV. Women who may be at risk of HIV and who plan to use the product more than once a day should consider switching to another form of birth control.

Apparently, the irritating effects of N-9 are dependent on dose and frequency of product use. Studies that have looked specifically at vaginal irritation have demonstrated that epithelial disruption is related to the frequency of product use, with lower dose products (52-150 mg.) causing little or no disruption when used once a day or less (Niruthisard 1992; Roddy 1993; Stevens et al. 1996).

Surprisingly, the sensation of "irritation" does not correlate well with actual microscopic or laboratory evidence of epithelial disruption. Thus, not all women who experience "irritation" actually have epithelial disruption or inflammation. Likewise, a woman may have lesions or disruption but not experience a sensation of irritation.

With all the medical evidence that shows the ineffectiveness and dangers of using Nonoxynol-9 Spermicide we do not understand why anyone would want to use these products.

Condom Depot also believes that use of these products may cause cervical cancer and other undesirable conditions. Spermicides are a "super detergent" that is concentrated. Basically you are putting chemicals inside your body. And that is never a good thing.

Please Note: We recommend using a condom lubricated with Nonoxynol-9 only when that is the only form of contraception available. Also, condoms, when used properly, are a very effective way of protecting yourself against HIV and STDs and unwanted pregnancy. However, abstinence is the only 100% effective way of eliminating your risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Info On Proper Condom Usage

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