The number and variety of options of birth control on the market have grown steadily over the last few decades. This is great news for women, who gain more control of their body, reproductive rights, and sex life as contraception becomes more accessible. The even better news is that the effort to expand birth control options and access is ongoing, with new products being researched and developed constantly.
One of newest birth control products to gain FDA approval is a contraceptive gel called Phexxi, manufactured by Evofem Biosciences, a pharmaceutical company based in San Diego. Let’s go over what you need to know about it.
What is Phexxi?
Phexxi is a nonhormonal birth control gel that provides protection against pregnancy. You need a prescription to get it. The gel’s active ingredients are lactic acid, citric acid, and potassium bitrate. These components work together to keep the pH in your vagina at a pre-sex level.
Normally, your vaginal pH ranges from about 3.5-4.5, which is moderately acidic. When sperm enters the vagina, it raises the pH to about 7 or 8, so that it can survive and travel to the egg. By keeping your pH lower, Phexxii creates an uninhabitable environment for sperm, reducing its chances of reaching an egg.
How do you use Phexxi?
Phexxi gel is applied directly in your vagina immediately or up to one hour before vaginal sex. It comes separated into single doses with applicators that are similar to a tampon. Pregnancy protection from Phexxi lasts up to one hour after application for one act of vaginal sex. If you don’t have sex within that hour, you must reapply it. You must also reapply it every time you have sex, just like a condom.
The gel can be used as needed at any time during your cycle. It can also be used safely in combination with other methods of birth control, such as the pill, shot, and condoms. The only contraceptive you should not use with Phexxi is the birth control ring.
What are the advantages of using Phexxi?
The primary advantage of Phexxi is that it is a nonhormonal birth control option. Many women are nervous about or do not like the side effects of taking hormones. Additionally, the side effects that the gel does have (more on that later) are not a constant presence, since you only use it as needed. This also means you do not have to worry about taking it every day, like a pill. Since it can be applied up to one hour before sex and still be effective, you don’t have to worry about application ruining the moment either.
While Phexxi does not offer protection from STDs, it does not increase your risk of contracting them the same way that spermicide does. This is because it does not use nonoxynol (N-9), an ingredient in spermicide that damages sperm. With repeated use, the N-9 in spermicide can also damage the cells of the vagina, not just the sperm, and make you more susceptible to infection.
When used perfectly, Phexxi is 93% effective at preventing pregnancy. On average, accounting for human error, it is about 86% effective.
Does Phexxi have any side effects?
Phexxi does produce some common side effects upon application. These include mostly itching, burning, and discomfort around the vulva and vagina. Male partners may also experience these symptoms during intercourse. Other possible side effects of Phexxi include:
- Vaginal fungal infection (yeast)
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney infection (less commonly)
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
Because of these possible side effects, Phexxi is not recommended if you suffer from recurrent UTIs or other urinary tract issues.
If you’re interested in learning more about Phexxi, or other available methods of birth control, make an appointment at South Avenue Women’s Services. Our women’s health specialists can provide you with the information you need to choose the right kind of birth control and then get you set up with whichever procedure, prescription, or product you determine is best for your needs.
Call us today at 585-271-3850 to set up an appointment with one of our doctors!