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What is a Contraceptive Gel?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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Contraceptive gel is a birth control option, sometimes referred to as a family planning option. These products are inserted into the vagina and are supposed to prevent sperm from entering the cervix. This is accomplished because they contain spermicides, which are supposed to create a barrier. Contraceptive gels may not be the best choice for everyone because risks of unwanted pregnancy are higher than with some other birth control options and the products have been reported to have side effects for some users.

Contraceptive gel is similar in many ways to the use of other products that are inserted vaginally, such as films and suppositories. The gel’s ability to remain in the appropriate areas is often attributed to its thickness. Some people find the use of these products to be messy, but many suppliers attempt to avert these complaints by packaging the product in pre-filled, disposable applicators. These can be easily inserted into the vagina, and afterward the gel can be dislodged. Once this is done, a person can proceed with sex immediately because these products do not require an activation period.

Some users report that these products have an unpleasant odor. In response to this, many suppliers market products that are supposed to be odor-free. These may also be formulated to prevent the staining of clothes or bedding.

One of the characteristics of contraceptive gel that is often highlighted is convenience. These products tend to make claims of varying periods of effectiveness. In most cases, gels may be applied many hours in advance, possibly making them an attractive option for individuals prone to spontaneous sexual behavior.

Some users have noted side effects such as itching, burning, or rash-like allergic reactions. These have been reported by both the females into whom the gel is placed and their males partners. There are questions of whether these problems are definitely caused by the contraceptive gels. It is advisable, however, for new users to test the product on a small area of skin before attempting to use it as a birth control method.

As with other birth control options, there is still a risk of pregnancy when a person uses contraceptive gel. This risk may be higher than that associated with certain other methods. To further reduce the risks of unwanted pregnancies, users are often advised to use these products with other contraceptives, such as condoms or vaginal sponges. Another thing to remember is that although these products are designed as barriers against sperm, they are not effective as barriers against the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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