Celebrities are endorsing a 'vagina gel' contraceptive. But does it actually... work?

"Welcome to my vagina. In here, I make the rules," says Schitt's Creek's actor Annie Murphy.

She's sitting in a plush pink lounge, which looks eerily similar to the vagina tunnel spotted in Cara Delevingne's house.

But Murphy isn't sitting in her own home's makeshift vag tunnel designed by a fancy interior designer. Instead, this whole setup is an ad for a 'hormone-free' birth control called Phexxi.

"Rule number one: no hormones, because hormones just weren't right for me. And since my number two rule is no parties without protection, I use Phexxi – a revolutionary, hormone-free birth control gel," Murphy says in the ad that has garnered over a million views.

Users of the product are guided to insert the gel into the vagina before heterosexual penetrative sex, therefore preventing pregnancy. It's a product that has been going bananas on TikTok.

But recently, new reports surrounding this contraceptive are emerging.

Watch the Phexxi ad with actor Annie Murphy. Post continues below.

Video via Phexxi.

The premise behind the contraceptive is well presenting – empowering people to get to know their own reproductive parts and be in control of their bodies and birth control. But the story doesn't end there.


Some women have claimed to have fallen pregnant while using Phexxi, and they're upset.


One woman alleged in a feature from Rolling Stone that she fell pregnant while using the birth control, even though she claims she had properly taken it as directed.

"I thought I better go take a pregnancy test. Lo and behold, it was positive. 'Maybe it was just my case' [I said to myself]. Then I went onto websites to look at reviews and realised I was not the only person."

Another woman said she was using Phexxi for three months before she realised she was pregnant – also claiming to have followed the birth control directions too. 

She said to Rolling Stone that she Googled "Phexxi efficacy" and found a number of women on WebMD and Reddit saying they too had fallen pregnant under allegedly similar circumstances. 


"It really pisses me off that they are packaging themselves as 'feminist' for a product that doesn't work at a time when [abortion] access has shrunk in certain parts of the country," she said.

"I have the money for an abortion if I need it. I live in a state where abortions are legal. But thinking about this ineffective birth control method coming out right before Roe was overturned, billing itself as a wellness or a feminist-focused brand, but then getting people pregnant? That makes me incredibly angry."

So how does this form of contraception apparently work?

Phexxi promotes itself as being a non-hormonal birth control gel that works to immobilise sperm and prevent pregnancy by managing a woman's natural vaginal pH.

The pH scale ranges between zero (very acidic) and 14 (more basic). A healthy pH level for the vagina is usually considered between 3.8 to 4.5 on the scale, but this number can be higher if going through menopause, perimenopause or other conditions. What Phexxi says it does is keep the vaginal pH in a very acidic range – a pH environment that sperm doesn't thrive in – via an applicator-inserted gel into the vagina. This, in turn, lowers the chance of pregnancy. 

Saundra Pelletier is the CEO of Phexxi's manufacturer, EvoFem Biosciences. She said to Rolling Stone that it's the acidic nature of Phexxi that changes the vagina's pH level, which reportedly works as a barrier method to sperm.

The only active ingredients are lactic acid, citric acid, and potassium bitartrate. One of the women who has since fallen pregnant while claiming to use Phexxi said in response to the ingredients list: "It's basically like putting lemon juice in your vagina and hoping for the best."


Dr Imaan Joshi is a specialist GP.

She explained to Mamamia that in trials of Phexxi, 1000 women aged 18-35 using it at least three times had contraceptive efficacy of around 86 per cent. In other words, for every 100 heterosexual intercourse encounter, 14 were likely to result in pregnancy. 

"As far as I can see, the evidence suggests that it is to be viewed as similar to other barrier contraception, which can have variable degrees of effectiveness, from correctly placed condoms, which can be 98 per cent effective, to diaphragms, not in vogue so much any longer, which have a lower efficacy rate depending on whether used with or without spermicide," she said.

Phexxi was approved by the FDA in mid-2020, but has yet to receive TGA registration and approval as a medicine.

When it comes to forms of non-hormonal birth control, Dr Joshi said they are often less reliable and less efficacious than hormonal birth control – largely because they are reliant on correct use and compliance every time.

"In saying that, there are reasons why non-hormonal birth control may be appropriate for many: those for whom hormonal birth control may not be suitable due to medical reasons. Those who are engaging in casual sexual encounters, or in a new relationship where protection against STIs is necessary (via condoms)," she said to Mamamia.


"For many of these reasons, among others, non-hormonal birth control is entirely appropriate and even preferred to hormonal birth control. Additionally, hormonal birth control at present is largely limited exclusively to women, and as such, places an unfair burden of contraceptive responsibility on women alone in heterosexual relationships."

The manufacturer for Phexxi says their product needs to be inserted no later than 60 minutes before sex – and using this birth control after sex won't work. If having sex a second time, the birth control gel would need to be used a second time, following the same rules as the first time. This birth control also doesn't protect against STIs. 


On WebMD, there are around 99 reviews. Over 30 of them are stories from women saying they fell pregnant while claiming to have been using Phexxi.

On, the same story follows – 11 out of 21 reviews share pregnancy stories too. 

In the wake of these reports, representatives for the company said to Rolling Stone that the product is effective when used correctly. As for actor Annie Murphy, who featured in the birth control's promotional material? She has been quiet on the matter. 

In the meantime, women will remain on the hunt – wading through the contraception jungle out there.

As Dr Joshi said to Mamamia, seeking the advice of a doctor is always the best approach – particularly someone trained in sexual health and birth control options. And a non-judgemental, respectful space makes a big difference too.

"There are many options available now, and sometimes it is about trial and error but equally, it begins with an honest and open discussion with a doctor who takes an interest in helping you find what is most likely to align with your needs and unique circumstances."

Feature Image: Phexxi 

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