The sponge works best if you use it correctly every time you have sex, which can be hard to do. The spermicide inside the sponge may also have side effects.
You have to use one every time you have sex.
In order for birth control sponges to work as well as possible, you have to use one every time you have vaginal sex — and you have to use it correctly. Luckily, you can put the sponge in up to 24 hours before sex, so you can prepare for interruption-free action. And you can have sex as many times as you want during the 24 hours after you put the sponge in.
If you’re not sure that you’ll be able to use the sponge every single time you have vaginal sex, there are plenty of other types of birth control out there that are easier to use and offer better protection against pregnancy (like IUDs and implants). Take this quiz to find a method that’s best for you.
Whatever type of birth control you’re on, adding condoms every time you have sex is the best way to reduce your risk of STDs (and get extra protection from pregnancy).
The sponge can be hard to use correctly
Some people have trouble inserting the sponge, and it can take some practice to get really good at it. You also have to make sure you leave the sponge in for at least 6 hours after the last time you had sex, but no more than 30 hours total.
It’s really important to use the sponge the right way, or it won’t work as well to prevent pregnancy. So make sure to follow the directions that come in the package.
You may have trouble removing a sponge every once in a while. If you have a hard time getting to the sponge, bear down (push with your vaginal muscles like you’re going to the bathroom) while reaching for it. You can grab the sponge itself and pull it out if you can’t find the fabric loop.
The sponge doesn’t prevent the spread of STDs.
Sponges do NOT protect you from STDS. The sponge can actually increase your risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections because the spermicide in sponges can irritate your vagina and make it easier for STD germs to enter your body.
The good news is adding condoms to the mix helps protect you from STDs and — bonus! — gives you an extra boost of pregnancy prevention. If you’re going to have sex, using condoms every time and getting tested regularly are the best ways to avoid STDs.
The sponge may have side effects
Some people are sensitive to Nonoxynol-9, the ingredient in the sponge’s spermicide. It can cause irritation that’s unpleasant and may even increase your risk for HIV and other STDs. (Using condoms along with your sponge is a great way to help prevent the spread of STDs and get extra protection from pregnancy.)
Sponge users may also have a slightly higher risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a super rare but serious disease. Read more about sponge safety.
Some people complain that the sponge is wet and messy. Others find that the sponge absorbs vaginal wetness and makes sex too dry, but adding a water-based or silicone lubricant will help keep things slippery and comfortable. The spermicide in the sponge may taste a little weird if you get it in your mouth.