Sponge

Sponge

An image of the birth control sponge

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top. It's pretty small—just two inches across—and is inserted way up in the vagina before having sex. The sponge works in two ways: it blocks the cervix to keep sperm from getting into the uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide.

    Details

    You wouldn't mind getting pregnant

    The "typical use" failure rate for the sponge can range from 12-24%, which is pretty high. So if getting pregnant would be disastrous, think about another method.

    You’re comfortable with your body

    If a person isn't comfortable with putting their fingers inside themselves, the sponge probably isn't the right method. It's a lot like putting in a tampon, though.

    It takes discipline

    People must remember to insert the sponge each and every time they have sex, so it takes a bit of self-discipline and planning

    Wanna go again?

    Once the sponge is in, a person can have sex as many times as they want within a 24-hour period. However, a person has to remember to leave it in for at least six hours after the last time they have sex, but not to leave it in for more than 30 hours total.

    Allergy issues

    For those allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide, the sponge isn't a safe method.

    The pregnancy question

    A person's return to fertility will occur immediately after the sponge is removed, which is great for those looking to conceive. But for those who aren't ready or interested in getting pregnant, an alternative method will be required immediately. 

    The Sponge may seem pricier than most methods, but there's a catch: three sponges come in one pack, and one sponge can last up to 24 hours.

    Payment assistance: Check with the local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low cost birth control (most do).

    In-Store Vendors

    • CVS: $5.50 - $6.50
    • Target: $4.90 - $5.40
    • Walgreens: $5.00 - $6.10
    • Walmart: $3.50 - $3.80

    Note: These ranges are averaged from a survey of select vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.

    Online Vendors

    • Amazon.com: $3.50 - $4.40
    • CVS.com: $6.10
    • Target.com: $5.00 - $5.40
    • Walmart.com: $3.70 - $4.00

    Note: These prices are averaged—including taxes and standard shipping costs—from a survey of select online vendors as of June 2016. Prices may change over time.

    Here's the handy thing about the sponge—it can be inserted up to 24 hours before having sex. But it does take a bit of practice getting it in, so follow these instructions.

    How to put it in

    1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
    2. Wet the sponge with at least two tablespoons of water before you put it in.
    3. Give the sponge a gentle squeeze, which will activate the spermicide.
    4. With the dimple side facing up, fold the sponge in half upward.
    5. Slide the sponge as far into your vagina as your fingers will reach.
    6. The sponge will unfold on its own and cover your cervix when you let go.
    7. Slide your finger around the edge of the sponge to make sure it's in place. You should be able to feel the nylon loop on the bottom of the sponge.
    8. You should only insert the sponge once (no repeat uses), but when it's in, you can have sex as many times as you want.

    How to take it out

    1. Wait at least six hours after sex to remove the sponge.
    2. Wash your hands with soap and water.
    3. Put a finger inside your vagina and feel for the loop.
    4. Once you've got the loop, pull the sponge out slowly and gently.
    5. Throw the sponge away in the trash. Don't flush it!
       

    Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.

    The Positive

    • The sponge can be put in up to 24 hours in advance.
    • A person can have sex as many times as they like while it's in.
    • No one should be able to feel the sponge.
    • Doesn't affect hormones.
    • No prescription necessary.
    • Can be used while breastfeeding.

    The Negative

    • Some people have a hard time inserting it.
    • Can cause vaginal irritation.
    • May make sex messier, or even dryer.
    • Some people are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide and shouldn't use the sponge.

    Also, failure rates vary wildly with the sponge. It all depends on whether or not a person has had a child. For those who haven't given birth, the failure rate is 9% for perfect use, and 16% for real world use. For those who've already had kids, the failure rate is way higher—20% for perfect use and 32% for real world use.

    Do you have questions about Sponge? Visit Bedsider.org for answers to many of the most popular questions about this method of birth control.