As women well know, new contraceptive methods are few and far between. Women bear the brunt of responsibility for birth control, and they often have to choose between methods full of hormones, or methods with irritating spermicides. Phexxi, a new contraceptive just out in 2020, straddles that divide — and Phexxi birth control reviews show the pros and cons.
Phexxi (rhymes with “sexy”) is a prescription-only, single-use birth control gel that uses no hormones and no spermicides. Instead, Phexxi enlists active agents like lactic acid to create a very unwelcoming PH environment for sperm. Knocked out and discouraged, the sperm simply give up their egg quest almost immediately and never even make it through the cervix.
Phexxi Has Some Distinct Advantages
There’s no doubt that a birth control method that’s not dependent upon either hormones or spermicide is a plus for many women. Hormones, included in the birth control pill, the vaginal ring, one type of IUD, and a host of other methods all come with risks. Those health risks include blood clots, stroke risk, and weight gain (maybe not risky, but certainly not sexy). Plus, taking a pill every day doesn’t suit everyone’s lifestyle and schedule.
Most barrier methods, like condoms (male and female), diaphragms, cervical caps, and other foams and gels, rely on spermicide-heavy substances like nonoxynol-9. While these spermicides do provide another function (they help protect against STIs, including the HIV virus), they’re also profoundly irritating for vaginal tissues. And itching, burning, and feeling like you need a nether region ice bath isn’t sexy, either.
Because Phexxi uses a combination of lactic acid, citric acid, and potassium, it’s far less likely to annoy delicate areas. Plus, it’s easy to use — you insert it using a tampon-like applicator — and it’s ready for action immediately (no annoying waiting). The pregnancy protection lasts for one hour (or one act), so if you’re going for extra rounds, you’ll need extra Phexxi.
If you use it scrupulously as directed by your doctor, Phexxi has a 93% efficacy. If you use it “typically,” meaning with a few mistakes (like an ordinary mortal), it goes down to 86%, but that’s still not bad and on par with condoms.
Phexxi Has Some Downsides
While Phexxi uses recognizable substances like citric acid, that doesn’t mean that there are no side effects. About 2% of women had irritation and developed UTIs. Indeed, if you’re a woman who has struggled with recurrent UTIs in the past, Phexxi might not be a good fit.
Another issue is cost. Phexxi is available by prescription only. Because it’s birth control, it should be covered by health insurance, which is required by law to cover contraception. However, if you’re paying out of pocket, it’s pretty pricey: about $250 per 12 pack, according to Forbes. There is a savings program on the Phexxi site to get the cost down to about $30, but who knows if those price breaks will remain long term, or if you’re eligible?
As far as user reviews go, online source Everyday Health had them all over the map. Some women were plagued by side effects like yeast infections and UTIs; some felt it was very convenient and even acted as extra lubrication. The general consensus was that it was a good interim method when coming off of hormonal birth control like the pill.
Some press has labeled Phexxi as “revolutionary.” This seems extremely hyperbolic. Phexxi is another spermicide that just happens to rely on more “natural” substances to get the job done. It’s definitely not as reliable as hormonal methods, and gynecologists recommend using Phexxi in conjunction with a barrier method like condoms or a diaphragm.
Now, if Phexxi were for men, THAT would be revolutionary.