Is Spermicide a Good Choice for Your Patient? A New Quiz

By Eva Martin, MD of Elm Tree Medical, Inc.

Are you a Rachel or a Monica or a Phoebe? What is your spirit animal? Is spermicide a risky choice for birth control? Just like a classic magazine personality quiz, researchers at Penn have created a simple quiz that can help women decide whether spermicide is a good contraceptive option for their specific situation. Read on to find out more!

1 in 6 women in the United States who use contraception use chemical & barrier methods that can be purchased over the counter, such as condoms and spermicide. Dr. Courtney Schreiber and her colleagues at the Penn Family Planning and Pregnancy Loss Center collected data from three published randomized, clinical trials testing spermicide efficacy. They then examined the factors that predicted whether or not spermicide worked for individual women.

Overall, after 6 months, 10.3% of women became pregnant while using spermicide as their contraceptive method. Women who were over the age of 35 were less likely to become pregnant. Having more frequent unprotected sex and having been pregnant in the past were associated with a higher risk of becoming pregnant. These were the three variables that formed the basis of the three simple questions that make up their quiz.

1. Age: You get 3 points if you are less than 25, 2 points for 25-35, and 0 points for age greater than 35.

2. Prior pregnancies: If you have never been pregnant before, you get 0 points, one prior pregnancies gets 2 points, and two or more prior pregnancies gets 3 points.

3. Unprotected Sex: In the past three months, unprotected vaginal sex less than 1 in 10 times is 0 points, between 1-3 in 10 times is 2 points, and more than 3 in 10 times is 4 points.

Add up the points. 3 or less points is a less than 5% risk of pregnancy when using spermicide. A score of 4 or more is a high risk (more than 5%) of pregnancy when using spermicide.

We want to hear from you! Do you recommend spermicide as a contraceptive method to your patients? Would you recommend patients use self-assessment decision tools like this one?