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Birth Control Sponge

The sponge is also called the contraceptive sponge or the birth control sponge. It is a tiny, round shaped sponge, that is manufactured using soft, squelchy plastic. To use it as a birth control measure, you are required to place it deep inside the vagina before you can engage in sexual intercourse. This sponge is designed in a such a way that it covers your cervix, and also contains spermicide, thereby making it possible to inhibit pregnancy.

With each sponge, there is a fabric loop that is attached to it, in order to make it easier for you to remove it. The birth control sponge helps in preventing pregnancy in two primary ways.birth control sponge

  1. It fits comfortably against the cervix, thereby blocking your uterus entrance, ensuring that sperm will not get to the eggs released by the ovaries.
  2. It has spermicide, that is designed to slow down the sperms, making certain that the sperms will not reach the eggs.

Why do couples prefer using the birth control sponge?

The sponge is preferred by couples as it is deemed to be between 89-91% effective. Additional features that make it an attractive option to the modern couples are:

  1. It provides twenty-four-hour protection
  2. The birth control sponge is condom free, and hormone free
  3. You do not require a prescription to get it
  4. You only use it, when you need to engage in intimacy

How effective is the sponge?

It is imperative to note that this form of birth control does not provide you with any protection from sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, to lessen your risk of contracting an STI, it is recommended that you always use it together with a condom.

If you happen to be allergic to nonoxyno-9, ensure you do not use any vaginal barrier technique, which may contain this particular spermicide. The tables below show the effectiveness of the sponge out of every one hundred women.

Out of a hundred nulliparous women that are using the contraceptive sponge

Typical use 12 women out of one hundred became pregnant
Perfect use 9 women became pregnant

Out of a hundred parous women using the sponge

Typical use 24 women end up becoming pregnant
Perfect use 20 women become pregnant


  1. Nulliparous—medical term used to refer to a woman who has never given birth in the past
  2. Parous—medical term for a woman who has given birth to at least one or more children

How does the birth control sponge work?

Once you have placed it inside your vagina, this sponge will inhibit pregnancy through the release of a spermicide that is known as nonoxynol-9. The spermicide functions by paralyzing (making sure that the sperm will not move) or killing sperm that enter your vagina.

There is a dimple on one part of this sponge, which fits over the cervix to create a wall to the sperm, thereby ensuring that sperm will not reach the egg. Additionally, the dimple also lowers the possibility of the sponge moving out of place when engaging in sexual intercourse. On the other side of the contraceptive sponge, there is a loop in place to allow for easy removal. You should note that only one side of this sponge is available.

How to use itHow to use the contraceptive sponge

If you want to use the contraceptive sponge as your primary method of birth control, you will need to be disciplined. Unlike the popular methods of birth control e.g. the injection and the pill, you need to remember to insert your sponge each and every time when you want to have sexual intercourse. As a result, it requires a bit of planning and self-discipline, though it is easy to carry with you, making it convenient.

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When the sponge is in place, you are able to engage in sexual intimacy for as many times as you would like to, within a duration of twenty-four-hours after insertion. However, you need to remember to leave it in place for a minimum of six hours after engaging in intercourse, though it should not remain in your vagina for more than thirty-hours.

The handy thing with this form of birth control is that you get three sponges in a single pack, and you have the option of inserting it in your vagina up to twenty-four hours before you can engage in intimacy. Therefore, there will be no need for you to fumble in the dark looking for a condom right before your big moment. However, you may need to practice a few times before you get it right. The following instructions will help in simplifying the process for you.

  1. Begin by washing your hands using soap and water
  2. Take your sponge and wet it using a minimum of two teaspoons of water before inserting it into your vagina
  3. As you put it in, make sure to give it a gentle squeeze, which is meant to active the spermicide
  4. Fold your sponge half upward, making certain that the dimple side is facing up. It should wind up appearing like a small pouty mouth
  5. Use your fingers to slide the sponge as far inside your vagina as they can go
  6. Once inside, it will unfold on its own, and will cover your cervix entirely once you have let it go
  7. Using your finger, gently slide around the sponge sides to ensure that it is totally in place. If it is properly in place, you will be able to feel the nylon loop that is at the bottom of your sponge.
  8. You cannot insert a sponge more than one time (no repeat uses), though once it is in place, you are at liberty to have sex as many times as you would like
  9. You are now good to go

Once you are done with intimacy, you will need to take the birth control sponge out, within a period of twenty-four-hours. This is how to go about removing it from your cervix:

  1. Wait a minimum of six-hours after you had sex for you to start the removal process
  2. Make sure your hands are clean by washing them with soap and water
  3. Take your finger and insert it inside your vagina, ensuring you move it around in search of the loop
  4. When you get the loop, gently and slowly pull out this sponge
  5. Do not flush the contraceptive sponge, but instead throw it away in your trash bins

With each birth control method, there are positive and negative things to be said about each. Given the fact that women are different, what you experience when using this form of birth control may not be similar to what your friend or family member experiences.

Will me and my partner be able to feel this contraceptive sponge?

Contrary to what you may think, this sponge is quite soft, and once you have it in place, neither you nor your partner should be able to feel it. In case it feels comfortable when it has been inserted, it may imply that it has not been inserted in the right manner.

As such, you should use your fingers to slowly and gently re-position it deep inside your vagina, until it fully covers the cervix. However, make certain that your fingernails are not pushed through the sponge. You always have to ensure that you are able to feel the loop.

Can I douche with the sponge inside?

After intercourse, it is recommended that women do not douche at all. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should not douche at all. No benefits are associated with douching, as it cannot be used to stop pregnancy. Additionally, douching is not safe, as it may increase your risks of getting:

  1. An ectopic pregnancy (occurs when a fertilized eggs gets implanted outside the vaginal area)
  2. Bacterial vaginosis (it is an infection of your vagina)
  3. Pelvic inflammatory diseases

Your body is in a position to make everything that it needs to keep your vagina clean. Therefore, all you need to use in order to keep the outer area of your vagina clean is soap and water. But, in case you decide to go ahead with douching, despite the warnings provided by medical experts, you should wait for a minimum of six hours after you have had sexual intercourse, to make certain that this spermicide will not be washed away.

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Does it provide protection against STIs?

No. please note that the birth control sponge is only used to prevent pregnancy, and it does in no way protect you against getting an STI. Actually, spermicide use is not recommended for a woman who engages in multiple day-to-day acts of sexual intercourse, as the irritation can increase your risks of contracting HIV.

Is it possible to be allergic to the sponge?

It is uncommon for you to be allergic to the use of this contraceptive sponge, even though there are women who could be allergic to the spermicide or the preservatives, or the polyurethane that are found in it. If you are using it, and you experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop using it immediately, and ensure that you contact your health care services provider. The symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Irritation
  • Itching

Pros of the contraceptive sponge?

A contraceptive sponge provides you with twenty-four-hours protection from becoming pregnant. Additionally, they are quite easy to use, and do not require a woman to have a prescription to obtain one. Other benefits include:

1.  Convenient and provide you with control

You do not need to have a prescription or to visit a doctor for you to get the contraceptive sponge. You can find them in some supermarkets, local drugstores, planned parenthood centers, online, and in community health centers.

A birth control sponge is small, is wrapped individually, and it can easily fit in your bag or pocket. As such, you can go with this sponge to wherever you want to go, and once in place, you will be able to have sex as many times as you would like to, without any worry for the next twenty-four-hours.

2. Does not interrupt sexual intimacy

You have the option of putting it in place at least 24 hours before you have sex, and therefore, there will be no need for you to worry about birth control when you are in the heat of your sexual moment. By putting in your sponge before things become steamy, you are able to prevent pregnancy, without having to pause the action between you and your partner.

When properly inserted, you should not be able to feel its presence, and neither should your partner. It feels more like your vagina because it is soft and squishy, which means that it will not cause any problems for the both of you.

3. It is hormone-free

Some women prefer using non-hormonal birth control, or would rather not use birth control methods with hormones due to medical reasons. For such women, the contraceptive sponge will be the perfect option. Given that it does not have any hormones, it means that it is safe to use it, especially when you are breastfeeding.

Disadvantages of using the sponge as a birth control method

If you use it correctly each time you have sex, the sponge will work perfectly for you. Like all other birth control methods, this form of contraception also has some disadvantages. They include:

1. Each time you have sex, you need to use one

For it to work as intended, you will need to use one each time you engage in vaginal sex, and you must make sure that you have inserted it properly. In case you are not sure that you can be able to use it each time you want to have sex, you can consider using the numerous other birth control options that are available.

Some of them are quite easy to use, and which offer the best protection against pregnancy related incidents e.g. implants and IUDs. Regardless of the birth control method that you opt for, it is always best to add in condoms, as they are the surest way to protect yourself and your partner from STDs.

2. It can be hard to use it correctly

There are women who have a hard time inserting this sponge, and it may take a while, and a lot of practice before you get the procedure correctly. Additionally, you will need to ensure that this sponge is left inside your vagina for six hours after engaging in sex, and for no more than thirty-hours after it was inserted.

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You need to follow the directions accompanying the package. Failure to use it in the correct manner means that you will not be able to prevent pregnancy. Every once in a while, you may encounter some problems when attempting to remove it from your vagina.

If you encounter an issue during the removal process, bear down (making certain to push with the vaginal muscles as though you want to go to the bathroom) while at the same time using your fingers to reach for the contraceptive sponge. If you are unable to find the fabric loop, try and grab the sponge so that you can pull it from the vagina.

3. It does not protect against STIs

It does not provide any protection from STDs and it may actually increase your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection as well as HIV. The increased risk is because the spermicide present in this sponge may irritate the vagina, thereby making it easier for the STD germs to gain entry to your body.

Side effects of birth control sponge

Some of the side effects associated with using a sponge include:

  1. There are women who are highly sensitive to nonoxyl-9, which is the primary ingredient in the spermicide present in sponges.
  2. It could cause an unpleasant irritation, which may increase your risk of getting STDs as well as being infected with HIV (using condoms together with a sponge will provide extra protection from getting pregnant, and it will also ensure that you are prevented from contracting an STD)
  3. A regular sponge user has a slightly higher risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (it is a serious disease, though it is a bit rare).
  4. Some women complain that sponges are wet and messy. Also, there are those who find that it absorbs vaginal wetness, which makes sex to be too dry. However, adding some water or using a silicone lubricant can help ensure that things remain comfortable and slippery.
  5. If you get it inside your mouth, the spermicide may taste a bit weird.

How safe is this birth control sponge?

Even though it may have some side-effects as mentioned above, it is considered to be quite safe for a majority of women. But, there are conditions that may make it a bit hard to use. A majority of women are able to use it easily and safe, but the contraceptive sponge may not be the right fit for you if:

  1. You happen to be allergic to polyurethane, sulfites, or spermicides
  2. You feel uncomfortable placing your fingers inside the vagina
  3. You currently have a wound or infection in or around the vagina
  4. You experience some problems putting it into place
  5. You recently had a birth, miscarriage, or an abortion
  6. You have a history of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

NOTE: the sponge should not be used by a woman who has any kind of vaginal bleeding, including her menses. When used with these conditions, there is an increased risk of getting TSS.

Some of the warnings of toxic shock syndrome include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A sore throat
  • Weakness, dizziness, and faintness
  • A sudden high fever
  • Aching joints and muscles
  • A rash that seems and feels like that of a sunburn

In case you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should immediately take the sponge out, and proceed to contact your physician. In order to lower your risks of getting TSS, it is recommended that:

  • You ensure that the sponge is not left in place for more than thirty-hours
  • Do not use it when you have your periods
  • Never use the contraceptive sponge right after a miscarriage, an abortion, or after giving birth.

How much does the sponge cost?

You will not need a prescription from your doctor to purchase a birth control sponge. Even though the prices vary, they often cost between $9 and $15, and in case you have any problems or questions, you should always consult your physician before starting to use the birth sponge.

Article resources

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2010). Contraceptive Sponge: What You Can Expect: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/contraceptive-sponge/MY00989/DSECTION=what-you-can-expect
  2. Best Kim. (2000): Family Health: http://www.reproline.jhu.edu/english/6read/6issues/6network/v20-2/nt2023.html
  3. Allendale Pharmaceuticals. (2006, July 17). How Well Does Today Sponge Prevent Pregnancy?: https://web.archive.org/web/20060717204734/http://www.todaysponge.com/howwell.htm
  4. Cervical Breast Cancer Society. (2009, January 14): https://web.archive.org/web/20060717204734/http://www.todaysponge.com/howwell.htm

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