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The contraceptive sponge, or birth control sponge, is a soft, round piece of plastic foam with a loop for removal. It’s available over the counter in many drugstores. The sponge is filled with a spermicide known as nonoxynol-9. You insert the sponge deep into your vagina before sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
The sponge works in three ways:
Using the sponge takes a little more time and preparation than other forms of birth control.
You can insert the birth control sponge immediately before you have sex or up to 24 hours beforehand. You can have sex multiple times while using the sponge. However, you should not keep the sponge in for more than 30 hours, and keep in mind you must wait at least six hours after having sex to remove the sponge.
The effectiveness of the sponge depends on how well you use it and whether or not you’ve ever given birth. The failure rates are:
To improve the effectiveness of the sponge, ask your partner to pull out before ejaculating. He can also use a condom as added protection.
The sponge is a convenient form of birth control for women, but it’s not a perfect method.
If the sponge breaks when you’re trying to remove it and you can’t get all the pieces out, you need to see your doctor. Leaving the pieces in your body may cause an infection.
You should not use the sponge if you are allergic to sulfites (a chemical found in some food and wine), the spermicide, or any of the sponge’s materials. Doing so may lead to an allergic reaction.
The sponge is also associated with a slightly increased risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). This condition may cause fever, shock, and organ damage. To reduce your risk of TSS from the sponge, make sure to:
You should talk to your doctor before using the sponge if you have recently had a birth, miscarriage, or abortion or if you think you have a pelvic infection.
The birth control sponge may be right for you, or other forms of birth control may be more suitable. Selecting a method of birth control that is right for you often comes down to finding the right balance between your personal preferences and what’s appropriate according to your medical history. Talk to your doctor about all of your options.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Dec 08, 2016: Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD, MS, FASCP
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