Worried? Had unprotected sex? We're here to help.
The Sponge at a Glance
- A foam sponge inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy
- Safe and convenient
- Easy to use
- Costs $0–$15 for a package of three sponges
Is the Sponge Right for Me?
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about the sponge. We hope you find the answers helpful.
What Is the Sponge?
The sponge is made of plastic foam and contains spermicide. It is soft, round, and about two inches in diameter. It has a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal. It is inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse.
The Today Sponge is the only brand of contraceptive sponge available in the United States today
How Does the Sponge Work?
The sponge prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm from joining with an egg. It works in two ways:
How Effective Is the Sponge?
Effectiveness is an important and common concern when choosing a birth control method. Like all birth control methods, the contraceptive sponge is more effective when you use it correctly.
The sponge is more effective for women who have never given birth.
- If women who have never given birth always use the sponge as directed, 9 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
- If women who have never given birth don't always use the sponge as directed, 12 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
Women who have previously given birth have a higher risk of pregnancy.
- If women who have given birth always use the sponge as directed, 20 out of 100 women will become pregnant each year.
- If women who have given birth don't always use the sponge as directed, 24 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
Your partner can help you make the sponge more effective by using a latex condom or pulling out before ejaculation.
Keep in mind that the contraceptive sponge does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Use a latex condom to reduce the risk of infection.
How Safe Is the Sponge?
Most women can use the contraceptive sponge safely. But some conditions may make it difficult or impossible for some women to use the sponge.
The sponge may not be right for you if you
- are allergic to sulfa drugs or the things that make up the sponge — polyurethane and spermicide
- are not comfortable touching your vagina or vulva
- have certain physical problems with your vagina
- have difficulty inserting the sponge
- have had a recent abortion, childbirth, or miscarriage
- have a history of toxic shock syndrome
- have a reproductive tract infection
You should not use the sponge when you have any kind of vaginal bleeding — including during your period. It could increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Sponge users may be at slightly increased risk of toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome is rare, but serious. To minimize the risk
Tell your health care provider if you experience any signs of toxic shock syndrome. The symptoms include
What Are the Benefits of the Sponge?
The contraceptive sponge is safe, simple, and convenient. You can buy it in a drugstore without a prescription. It does not need to be fitted by a health care provider. And with some practice, inserting and using the sponge is easy.
Women like the sponge because
- It can be carried in pocket or purse.
- It generally cannot be felt by you or your partner.
- It has no effect on a woman's natural hormones.
- It does not interrupt sex play — the sponge can be inserted hours ahead of time and can be worn for up to 30 hours after you put it in. During that time, you can have intercourse as many times as you like during the first 24 hours without removing or reinserting the sponge.
- It can be used during breastfeeding.
What Are the Disadvantages of the Sponge?
There are few risks to using the contraceptive sponge.
Some women may not like the sponge because
- It may be difficult for some women to insert or remove the sponge. If you cannot remove a sponge, or if one breaks into pieces and you cannot remove all of the pieces, see your health care provider immediately to have the sponge removed.
- It may cause vaginal irritation.
- It may make sex too messy or too dry. Some women complain that the sponge is messy because it requires too much liquid. Others have complained the sponge makes sex too dry. Using a water-based lubricant may help dryness.
The sponge contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 has certain risks. If it is used many times a day, or by people at risk for HIV, it may irritate tissue and increase the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
How Do I Use the Sponge?
With a little practice, the contraceptive sponge is easy to use. And the sponge is more effective when you use it correctly.
INSERTING A SPONGE
|Wash your hands with soap and water.|
|Before inserting the sponge, wet it with at least two tablespoons of clean water.|
|Gently squeeze the sponge. The spermicide will become active when the sponge is completely wet.|
|Fold the sides of the sponge upward and away from the loop on the bottom to make it look long and narrow. Then slide the sponge as far back into your vagina as your fingers will reach.|
|The sponge will unfold and cover the cervix when you let go of it. To make sure the cervix is covered, slide your finger around the edge of the sponge and check its position. You also should be able to feel the nylon loop on the bottom of the sponge.|
How long do I leave the sponge in?The sponge can be inserted up to 24 hours before intercourse. It must be left in place for at least six hours after the last time you have intercourse. It should not be worn for more than 30 hours in a row.
REMOVING A SPONGE
|Wash your hands with soap and water.|
|To remove the sponge, put a finger inside your vagina and through the loop. Pull the sponge out slowly and gently.|
Use a sponge only once. Always discard a used sponge in a waste container. Do not flush it down the toilet.
How Do I Get the Sponge? How Much Does the Sponge Cost?
The sponge is available at your local Planned Parenthood health center, other family planning clinics, drugstores, online, and in some supermarkets.
A package of three sponges costs $0–$15. The costs may be slightly lower or higher depending on where you live.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins