Birth Control Sponge
The sponge was first introduced to the public in 1994. It
quickly became a very popular form of birth control. It was even made famous by
an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine questioned if her
partners were “sponge-worthy.” Since that time, the sponge has fluctuated in
availability and popularity. However, it is a reasonably effective birth
control method with a faithful following.
What Is the Contraceptive Sponge?
The contraceptive sponge is a soft, round piece of plastic
foam with a handle attached. It is filled with the spermicide known as nonoxynol-9 (N-9). The sponge is
inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse.
How Does the Contraceptive Sponge Work?
The sponge works in two ways. First, it physically blocks
sperm from fertilizing an egg by covering the cervix. It also continually
releases spermicide to kill sperm.
How Do I Use the Contraceptive Sponge?
The birth control sponge is available over the counter. You
can find it at drugstores or health care centers. To use the sponge:
your hands with soap and water.
the sponge with clean water and squeeze it to activate the spermicide. The
sponge should be wet all the way through, but not dripping.
the sponge up and away from the loop, so that it is long and narrow.
the sponge as deeply into your vagina as you can.
the sponge. It will unfold and cover the cervix.
birth control sponge can be inserted immediately or up to 24 hours before sex. You
must wait at least six hours before removing the sponge after sex. This gives
the spermicide time to immobilize any sperm that are present. However, you
should not keep the sponge in for more than 30 hours.
To remove the sponge:
your hands with soap and water.
your fingers into your vagina and grab the loop.
out the sponge, and throw it away.
Do not flush your sponge down the toilet. Do not reuse a
Effectiveness of the Contraceptive Sponge
The efficacy of the sponge depends on how well you use it
and whether or not you’ve given birth. According to Planned Parenthood,
the failure rate is:
percent for women who haven’t had children and use the sponge correctly
- 12 percent
for women who haven’t had children but don’t use the sponge correctly
percent for women who have had children and use the sponge correctly every
percent for women who have had children and don’t use the sponge correctly
To improve the effectiveness of the sponge, ask your partner
to pull out before ejaculating. He can also use a condom as added protection.
Benefits of the Contraceptive Sponge
The sponge is a very convenient form of birth control for
women. Benefits of the sponge include:
- wide availability
- ability to place it before sex
- no effect on hormones
Disadvantages of the Contraceptive Sponge
The sponge also has a number of disadvantages, including:
efficacy for women who have given birth
unsafe for use during your period
no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
increasing STI risk, because of exposure to N-9
irritation from the sponge or N-9
removal, for some women
If the sponge breaks when you are trying to remove it, and you
can’t get all the pieces, you need to visit a doctor. Left in place, there is a
risk of infection.
Risks of the Contraceptive Sponge
The sponge is associated with a slightly increased risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This
condition causes fever, shock, and potential organ damage. This risk can be
reduced by following the instructions on the sponge. You should never leave the
sponge in for more than 30 hours. You should not use it if you have any vaginal
If you have any signs of TSS, call your doctor. Signs of TSS
- aching muscles and joints
- feeling faint
- sore throat
- sudden high fever
- sunburn-type rash
- throwing up
In addition, the sponge should not be used if you:
allergic to sulfa drugs or any of the sponge components
recently had a birth, miscarriage, or abortion
have a pelvic infection