picture of different birth controls like a condom, contraceptive pill

Welcome to the Future of (Non-Hormonal) Birth Control: Phexxi

Are you sick of using hormonal birth control? Would you like a simple birth control you can use in-the-moment that isn’t a diagram, condom, or spermicide? Phexxi might work for you.

Phexxi is a hormone-free vaginal gel that can be used as contraception exactly when you need it. (Aka: right before penetrative sex.) 

And it’s a whole new method of birth control. 

Last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Phexxi as the first vaginal gel for preventing pregnancy. Now, Evofem Biosciences, the makers of Phexxi, have launched a cheeky new marketing campaign to promote Phexxi.

The newest Phexxi commercial features Annie Murphy, star of ‘Schitt’s Creek’, which you can watch here. She opens the ad by loudly proclaiming, “Welcome to my vagina” then goes on to say what is and isn’t welcome in her vagina, like hormones.

With a new type of birth control comes a new type of commercial; one that actually says ‘vagina’, instead of some juvenile nickname.

“We talk about elbows, and we talk about knees, why do we call it a hoo-hoo? Why can’t we call it what it is—a vagina?” Evofem Biosciences’s Chief Executive Officer, Saundra Pelletier, told FiercePharma.

How is Phexxi different from other birth control methods?

Currently, the FDA has approved the patch, ring, pill, implantable rod, intrauterine device (IUD), injection, condom, diaphragm, cap, spermicide, and surgery for pregnancy prevention. But a lot of these methods use hormones or require you to take action every day.

Sure, there are non-hormonal options like the copper IUD or a condom, but Phexxi is the first birth control method of its kind. 

“Women now have access to a non-hormonal contraceptive option that they control on their terms, to be used ONLY when they need it,” said CEO Saundra Pelletier, in a press release. “Empowerment results from innovation and we are proud and excited to deliver new innovation to women in a category ready for change.”

How does Phexxi work?

According to Evofem Biosciences, Phexxi lowers the pH balance of your vagina, making it more acidic and an inhospitable place for sperm.

When you’re about to have sex, you insert Phexxi using a tampon-like applicator that is pre-filled with gel which you push into your vagina. This gel provides protection for one hour. Every time you have sex, you use another Phexxi.

It’s used in-the-moment like spermicide, but Phexxi focuses on changing the vagina whereas spermicide focuses on changing the sperm. 

“During my 15-year career at the FDA, I participated in the review and approval of many sexual and reproductive health products, and I believe that Phexxi serves a true unmet need in contraception.”

Lisa Rarick, M.D., former FDA Division Director and Evofem board member

While Phexxi is approved for preventing pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To protect yourself from an STD, doctors recommend using a condom with Phexxi.

Does Phexxi have any side effects?

Scientists have yet to make a birth control method that doesn’t have at least one side effect. Even natural family planning has a side effect—you can’t have sex whenever you want.

About one third of women in the Phexxi clinical trial reported itching or burning inside their vagina and 10% of their male partners also experienced these side effects. The most severe side effect is urinary tract infection, which occurred in less than 1% of all women.

How effective is Phexxi?

According to the clinical trial, Phexxi is 93% effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect usage, and 86% effective with typical usage.

While Phexxi isn’t as effective as an IUD or some hormonal birth control pills, it’s just as effective at preventing pregnancy as a condom or diaphragm and more effective than just using spermicide. It also gives women another option for birth control, and the choice to use it exactly when they need it vs. taking a pill every day.

How do I get Phexxi and how much does it cost?

You need a prescription to get Phexxi, and the cost depends on your type of health insurance. One box of 12 Phexxi applicators costs $267.50. The Affordable Care Act does not cover Phexxi. But, Evofem Biosciences is offering a financial assistance program (which you can check out here) until they do.

Is Phexxi the right birth control method for me?

Ask your trusted OBGYN to learn more about Phexxi and other birth control methods. While Phexxi isn’t the most effective method on the market, it is a new option for women that gives them more flexibility and another choice for preventing pregnancy.

Hopefully, we’ll see more contraceptive vaginal gels in the future.

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