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revised Friday October 12 2007

Contraceptive Foam

What is it?

Contraceptive foam is a method of birth control you put into your vagina before you have sex. It contains a chemical called a spermicide. A spermicide helps to prevent pregnancy by killing sperm. The foam covers the vaginal folds and can help to form a barrier between the sperm and the egg. Non-oxynol 9 is the spermicide commonly found in contraceptive foam.

How effective is it?

The effectiveness of a spermicide depends on whether it is used correctly everytime you have sex. It is 74-94% effective in preventing pregnancy depending on how well you use it. You need to feel comfortable with putting the applicator into your vagina to use this method. For a spermicide to be effective, it must be placed correctly in the vagina and intercourse must take place within 1 hour. The foam starts working immediately.


  • easily available at a pharmacy or sexual health clinic - no prescription needed
  • you only use it when you need it
  • convenient to carry with you
  • relatively inexpensive
  • provides extra lubrication during intercourse
  • its effectiveness can be improved to 98% by using a condom
  • women can make the decisions to use this method without their partner


  • should be used with another method of birth control (for example, condoms) to be more effective
  • may cause burning or irritation of the vagina or penis which may result in pain with urination or with sex
  • irritation from the foam may increase the chances of becoming infected with HIV if you are exposed to the virus
  • may have a bad taste (if you are also having oral sex)
  • cannot be used if you or your partner(s) are allergic to spermicide
  • may be messy
  • does not protect against sexually transmitted infections

Additional Information

  • be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions
  • if any side effects develop, see your health care professional
  • douching within 6 hours of using spermicide can wash away the foam, making it ineffective (douching is not a recommended practice, as it increases the risk of both pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancy)

How to Use Foam

Step One

  • Buy spermicidal foam with an applicator
  • Check expiry date

Step Two

  • Shake can 20 times before each use
  • Remove lid
  • Set can on a level surface
  • Put applicator on top of can and press down gently
  • Foam will fill the applicator

Step Three

  • Lie on your back with knees bent or stand with one foot on a chair
  • Separate labia (lips) to find the opening of the vagina

Step Four

  • Put a full applicator into vagina as far as it will go (the applicator needs to make contact with the cervix, which for many women is deep in the vagina)
  • Push plunger all the way in
  • Remove applicator and wash with soap and water


You need another full applicator of foam if:

  • more than 60 minutes goes by before intercourse
  • you have intercourse more than once
  • you are using a condom and foam and the condom breaks

Use condoms to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and Hepatitis B.

For more information, call 905-799-7700 and ask for Sexual Health Information.

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Revised: Friday October 12 2007

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