Departmental Papers (Obstetrics and Gynecology)

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Journal Article

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Publication Source

Obstetrics & Gynecology





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OBJECTIVE—Products containing nonoxynol-9 have been used as spermicidal contraceptives for many years, but limited data have been published describing the long-term effects of nonoxynol-9 use on the vaginal microbial ecosystem. This longitudinal study was conducted to examine the effects of nonoxynol-9 on the vaginal ecology.

METHODS—Vaginal swabs were obtained from 235 women enrolled in a randomized clinical trial before initiation of use of 1 of 5 different formulations of nonoxynol-9 for contraception, and up to 3 more samples were gathered over 7 months of use. The swab samples were evaluated in a single laboratory. The prevalence of several constituents of the normal vaginal flora was evaluated. The associations between nonoxynol-9 dosage, formulation, average product use per week, and number of sex acts per week were calculated.

RESULTS—The changes in prevalence of vaginal microbes after nonoxynol-9 use were minimal for each of the different nonoxynol-9 formulations. However, when both nonoxynol-9 concentration and number of product uses are taken into account, nonoxynol-9 did have dose-dependant effects on the increased prevalence of anaerobic gram-negative rods (odds ratio [OR] 2.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–5.3), H2O2-negative lactobacilli (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.0–4.1), and bacterial vaginosis (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.1–4.7).

CONCLUSION—This study demonstrated that most nonoxynol-9 users experienced minimal disruptions in their vaginal ecology. There were no differences between the different formulations evaluated with respect to changes in vaginal microflora. However, independent of the nonoxynol-9 formulation, there was a dose-dependent effect with increased exposure to nonoxynol-9 on the risk of bacterial vaginosis and its associated flora.


This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Obstetrics & Gynecology.



Date Posted: 01 October 2019

This document has been peer reviewed.