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A birth control sponge is a nonhormonal birth control method that a person inserts into their vagina. While a birth control sponge can protect against pregnancy, it cannot prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The birth control sponge may not be suitable for people who have vaginal infections, a history of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), or an allergy to spermicides and polyurethane.
At the time of publishing, there is only one brand of birth control sponge, the Today Sponge, available to buy in the United States.
This article explores what the birth control sponge is, where to buy it, and how it compares to other contraceptive methods.
The birth control sponge is a nonhormonal birth control method. It is round, is made from polyurethane foam, and contains spermicide. A person inserts it into their vagina before sexual activity to prevent pregnancy. They can use the attached fabric loop to take out the sponge after sex.
The birth control sponge is suitable for most people who do not want to use hormonal birth control.
However, unlike other barrier birth control methods, such as internal and external condoms, the birth control sponge does not protect against STIs. People may consider using a condom in addition to the sponge to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
Additionally, people may prefer to use a different form of contraception if they:
- have recently given birth
- have recently had an abortion or miscarriage
- have an allergy to spermicide, sulfites, or polyurethane
- have an infection of or around the vagina
- have difficulty or discomfort putting fingers into the vagina
- have a history of TSS
People should discuss any relevant medical history with a healthcare professional before using a birth control sponge.
Additionally, people should not use the sponge when they are menstruating or experiencing vaginal bleeding. Doing so can increase the risk of TSS.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that barrier birth control, such as condoms, spermicide, and sponges, is not as effective as hormonal contraception.
Also, the birth control sponge does not protect against the transmission of STIs. A person will have to use a condom to protect against any STIs.
Every year, up to 28 out of 100 females will become pregnant while using barrier birth control. To increase the effectiveness of the sponge, people should ensure they follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
A person can use the sponge alongside condoms to increase protection against unintended pregnancy and the transmission of STIs. If any method of barrier birth control becomes misplaced during sexual activity, people may wish to consider using emergency contraception.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood states that the birth control sponge is more effective for those who have never given birth. With typical use, the sponge will be 91% effective in people who have never given birth in comparison to 80% effective in those who have.
A person can keep the birth control sponge in their vagina for up to 30 hours. They can insert the sponge up to 24 hours before having sex and must leave the sponge in for 6 hours after sex.
To insert a sponge, a person must do the following:
- With clean hands, moisten the sponge with water and squeeze it gently to activate the spermicide.
- Making sure the sponge is wet and foamy, hold it with the fabric loop facing down.
- Squat or place one leg on a raised surface such as a stool or toilet.
- Fold the sponge in half and insert it as far into the vagina as possible.
- Check that the sponge covers the cervix by running a finger around the edges.
To remove the sponge, a person should squat or place one leg on a raised surface, hold onto the fabric loop, and gently pull it out.
If a person finds it difficult to reach the sponge, they can bear down with their vaginal muscles while reaching for it.
The birth control sponge is not reusable. People must throw it away once they have finished using it.
Some people may also have an allergic reaction to the polyurethane or sulfites present in the sponge.
Rarely, people who use a birth control sponge can develop TSS. A person is more likely to experience TSS if they leave the sponge in for more than 30 hours, use it while menstruating, or use it soon after giving birth or having an abortion or miscarriage.
ACOG advises that individuals who have given birth more recently than 6 weeks ago should not use this birth control method.
A person should always contact a doctor or other healthcare professional to discuss when it is safe to use a birth control sponge after birth, abortion, or miscarriage.
The table below shows the differences between the birth control sponge, condoms, and intrauterine devices (IUDs).
|Birth control sponge||External condom||IUD|
|Life span||one-time use only||one-time use only||lasts up to 12 years|
|Use||A person inserts it into the vagina up to 24 hours before sex.||A person places it over the penis before sex.||A doctor inserts it into the uterus.|
|Average cost||starting at around $12 for 3 sponges||around $12 for a pack of 12||up to $1,300|
|Side effects||vaginal irritation|
allergic reaction to spermicide, polyurethane, or sulfites
in rare cases, TSS
|allergic reaction to latex or polyurethane||mood changes|
|Effectiveness||91% effective in women who have never given birth||more than 99% effective|
At the time of publishing, there is only one brand of birth control sponge available to buy in the United States.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried this product. All information presented is purely research-based.
Today Sponge is a company that manufactures and sells the birth control sponge. At the time of publishing, the company is unable to manufacture or sell the sponge due to COVID-19 restrictions in India.
Today Sponge states that the birth control sponge is out of stock until further notice. A pack of three sponges costs $11.99 through the company’s website.
However, Walmart sells the Today Sponge on its website. At the time of publishing, a pack of three birth control sponges costs $37.99.
Before using a birth control sponge, people may wish to consider the pros and cons.
Below are some frequently asked questions about the birth control sponge.
Does the birth control sponge protect against STIs?
The birth control sponge does not prevent the transmission of STIs.
However, a person can use external condoms alongside a birth control sponge. A condom is the most effective protection against STIs.
How long can I leave the sponge in?
People can insert the sponge into their vagina up to 24 hours before sex and must leave the sponge in for 6 hours after sex.
A person should not keep the sponge in their vagina for more than 30 hours.
Is the contraceptive sponge safe?
The contraceptive sponge is safe for most people to use. However, people who are menstruating, have recently given birth, or have recently had an abortion or miscarriage should not use the sponge.
Additionally, some people may experience an allergic reaction to the polyurethane, spermicide, or sulfites in the sponge.
Rarely, the sponge may cause TSS. A person can decrease their risk of TSS by not using the birth control sponge while menstruating.
The birth control sponge is a nonhormonal birth control method that people can insert up to 24 hours before sex. The sponge does not protect a person against STIs.
The birth control sponge is safe to use. However, people should take it out immediately if they experience vaginal irritation, an allergic reaction, or any symptoms of TSS.