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Contraceptive Sponge for Birth Control

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Contraceptive Sponge for Birth Control

Overview

The sponge is used to prevent pregnancy. It is called a barrier method because it keeps the sperm and eggs apart. The sponge also contains a spermicide, which kills the sperm or stops the sperm from moving.

The sponge fits inside your vagina and covers the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. After you place the sponge, you have protection for up to 24 hours. You must leave the sponge in place for 6 hours after vaginal sex. Don't leave it in for more than a total of 30 hours.

How well does it work?

How well the sponge works depends on whether you have ever delivered a child vaginally or not.

  • If you have had a vaginal childbirth:
    • When the sponge is used exactly as directed, it is about 80% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 20 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed, it is about 73% effective. This means that about 27 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy.footnote 1
  • If you have not had a vaginal childbirth:
    • When the sponge is used exactly as directed, it is about 91% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 9 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed, it is about 86% effective. This means that about 14 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy. footnote 1

There is less chance of getting pregnant if you and your partner use an external (male) condom with the sponge.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any health problems you have or medicines you take. Your doctor can help you choose the birth control method that is right for you.

What are the advantages of using the sponge for birth control?

  • The sponge is available without a prescription at family planning clinics, in drugstores, online, and in some grocery stores.
  • The sponge doesn't use hormones. So you can use the sponge if you don't want to take hormones or can't take hormones because you have certain health problems or concerns.
  • The sponge is safe to use while breastfeeding.
  • It doesn't affect your menstrual cycle.
  • It costs less than hormonal types of birth control.
  • The sponge can be inserted up to 24 hours ahead of time so you don't have to interrupt sex.

What are the disadvantages of using the sponge for birth control?

  • The sponge doesn't prevent pregnancy as well as IUDs or hormonal forms of birth control.
  • It prevents pregnancy only if you use it every time you have intercourse.
  • The sponge doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV. If you're not sure whether your sex partner might have an STI, use a condom to protect against infection.
  • The spermicide in a sponge may cause an allergic reaction. It can cause itching or sores in the vagina or on the penis.
  • You may have to interrupt sex to insert the sponge.
  • You may not be comfortable with inserting the sponge each time you have intercourse.
  • You cannot use the sponge during your period.

References

Citations

  1. Trussell J, Aiken ARA (2018). Contraceptive efficacy. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, p. 844. New York: Ayer Company Publishers, Inc.

Credits

Current as of: April 19, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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