Effectiveness in Preventing Pregnancy
- Of 100 women using this method for one year, 12 to 24 of them may become pregnant.
- Your risk of getting pregnant is much higher if you have had a baby, or if you do not use the sponge correctly each time you have sex.
What is the sponge?
The sponge is a small, disk-shaped device made of soft plastic foam that covers the cervix and contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9 (N-9). The spermicide in the sponge prevents pregnancy by killing sperm, stopping them from reaching and fertilizing an egg.
How do I use it?
The sponge is placed inside the vagina, covering the cervix, prior to having sex and works by continuously releasing spermicide to kill sperm, preventing them from reaching and fertilizing an egg. The sponge must be moistened completely to activate the spermicide before inserting into the vagina.
The sponge can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex and must be kept in place for at least six hours after sex. The sponge must be removed within 24–30 hours from the time it was first inserted to avoid toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious infection.
Do not reinsert sponge after removal. Throw it away in a waste container once sponge is removed. Do not flush it down a toilet.
How effective is it?
Of 100 women who use this method each year, 12 to 24 of them may become pregnant. Your risk for pregnancy when using the sponge depends on:
- Whether or not you have had a baby. Childbirth stretches the vagina and cervix—this means the sponge may not fit as tightly against the cervix, making it less effective.
- If you use the sponge correctly each time you have sex.
How do I get it?
You do not need a prescription or personal identification to buy the sponge with spermicide. The sponge is available over the counter at pharmacies, clinics, and some grocery stores.
Advantages of the sponge
- The sponge is safe, simple to use, and available without a prescription.
- You can insert the sponge before having sex and it offers protection for up to 24 hours.
- It is private. It is your choice if your partner knows about it.
Drawbacks of the sponge
- The sponge does not provides protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. Always use a condom to reduce the risk of STDs.
- Some women may experience irritation or allergic reactions with the sponge.
- Spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 (N-9) can irritate the vagina and rectum. This may increase the risk of getting the HIV/AIDS virus from an infected partner.
- If left in place longer than 24 hours, there is a risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
- The sponge may be difficult for some women to remove.
- Birth Control: Medicines To Help You
- Birth Control Methods
- Providing Quality Family Planning Services; Recommendations of CDC and the U.S. Office of Population Affairs
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Types of Birth Control
- Unintended Pregnancy
- United States Medical Eligibility Criteria (US MEC) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
- U.S. Selected Practice Recommendations (US SPR) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
Content last reviewed on June 6, 2019