A vaginal contraceptive film (VCF) resembles a small sheet, much like the wrapper that comes with fruit roll ups. It is a birth control method for that a woman places in her vagina or close to the cervix.
The film then dissolves when it comes into contact with vaginal fluids. It is inserted before intercourse and couples should wait for at least 15 minutes before having sex.
A new film needs to be used every time sex is to be had.
How does it work?
Spermicides can take the form of creams, dissolvable films, foams, jellies, suppositories, and tablets. It contains chemicals that destroy sperm, preventing it from being able to fertilize an egg. This is the kind of birth control method that VCF belongs to.
The chemical nonoxynol-9, abbreviated as N-9, is the chemical mainly used in spermicides, and that is true with VCF.
Is it effective?
The short answer is not entirely. Then again, like many other birth control forms, correct and consistent use is much better than using none at all.
So why isn’t VCF 100% effective?
Using spermicide correctly isn’t easy despite the product coming with directions on use. It also needs to be used every time a person has sex, otherwise it can’t offer pregnancy protection.
In addition, using spermicide alone doesn’t guarantee protection against pregnancy. It is most effective when used with other birth control forms.
For instance, a combination of VCF plus a male condom is much more effective compared to using VCF alone. Other combinations include spermicide and withdrawal as well as withdrawal and rhythm.
Then again, the simplicity of VCF cannot be denied. A woman or her partner just needs to insert the film in the vagina or close to the cervix then wait for at least 15 minutes before having sex.
Pills, another birth control method, have certain disadvantages despite being a more effective form of pregnancy control.
Women each have different reactions to the hormones contained in pills. Side effects include breast tenderness, nausea, decreased sex drive, and bleeding between periods.
Plus, VCF is readily available over the counter without needing a prescription. For comparison, women need to get a prescription from a private doctor, a nurse, or a health clinic to purchase birth control pills.
VCF may also be simple to use but it can be a disadvantage for those who develop allergies or skin irritations after using it. Those who experience complications are put at a higher risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection like HIV.
How does it compare to a vaginal sponge?
And just like VCF, a vaginal contraceptive sponge needs to be inserted into the vagina. The difference is that it needs to be inserted into the vagina 24 hours before intercourse.
Instructions also need to be followed closely for a sponge to be effective. For instance, it needs to be inside the vagina as far back as possible. It also works when placed over the cervix, but it has to cover the cervix. The sponge should also be left six to eight hours after intercourse.
Just like VCF, people may have an allergic reaction or irritation when using it. A sponge is not also recommended to women who have had an abortion, miscarriage, or a baby.
Sponges are also not 100% effective even if used correctly for more than a year. Out of 100 women, between 9 to 12 still get pregnant despite using it the right way. And just like VCF, having a partner use a condom is still a more effective way to avoid pregnancy.
Pros & Cons
It is a simple and convenient form of birth control. VCF is paper thin and needs to be placed in the vagina or near the cervix where it will dissolve within seconds.
The film contains spermicide, which contains chemicals that prevent a sperm from fertilizing an egg. It needs to be inserted before having sex plus there’s a wait time of at least 15 minutes before beginning intercourse.
It is available at most drugstores without needing a prescription and even at Amazon.com. Although birth control pills can be purchased at drugstores and health clinics, a prescription is needed in order to get them.
It allows for uninterrupted lovemaking. The film dissolves when in contact with vaginal fluids. Once it does, it isn’t noticeable by either partner plus it doesn’t become runny or messy.
It is not 100% effective. In fact, it is the least effective among other forms of birth control. VCF is between 74 to 94% effective when used consistently and correctly. This means that for every 100 women who solely rely on it, about six to 26 get pregnant.
It requires other birth control forms to be truly effective. VCF on its own is not 100% effective. However, having a partner put on a condom can minimize the chances of getting pregnant.
Otherwise, it’s best to use birth control pills or other hormonal methods, all of which have been proven more effective at keeping pregnancy at bay.
It can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some people develop allergies when using spermicides or get skin irritations.
These complications resulting from the use of the product increase the chance of STIs for both men and women. As a result, they are not the best choice for those who are at high risk of STIs.
VCF is just one of the many birth control methods available for women. It has certain advantages, one of them being the availability and ease of use. However, it should also be used in the proper manner for it to be effective.
The sole use of VCF won’t prevent pregnancy. It still helps if a partner uses a condom or another form of birth control.
Then again, using VCF is still more effective at keeping pregnancy at bay than not using any form of birth control at all.