Birth control sponge
Basic Info & FAQs
The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It’s pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide. Think of it like a bouncer at the nightclub door to your uterus.
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 for you, think about another method.
You’re comfortable with your body
If you’re not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, the sponge probably isn’t for you. It’s a lot like putting in a tampon, though: If you can do that, you can probably manage the sponge.
It takes discipline
You’ve got to remember to insert the sponge each and every time you have sex, so it takes a bit of self-discipline and planning. But at least you can carry it with you if you want.
Wanna go again?
Once the sponge is in, you can have sex as many times as you want within a 24-hour period. Just remember to leave it in for at least 6 hours after the last time you have sex and don’t leave it in for more than 30 hours total.
If you’re allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide, you shouldn’t use the sponge.
The pregnancy question
You’ll be able to get pregnant as soon as you stop using the sponge. So protect yourself with another method right away.
What does it cost?
The Sponge may seem pricier than most methods, but there’s a catch: three sponges come in one pack, and one sponge can last you up to 24 hours (no matter how many times you do it).
Payment assistance: Check with the your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low cost birth control (most do).
- 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.
- 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.
How do I use it?
Here’s the handy thing about the sponge—you can insert it up to 24 hours before you get busy. So there’s no need to fumble in the dark right before the big moment. But it does take a bit of practice getting it in, so follow these instructions.
How to put it in
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Wet the sponge with at least two tablespoons of water before you put it in.
- Give the sponge a gentle squeeze. (That’ll activate the spermicide.)
- With the dimple side facing up, fold the sponge in half upward, so that it winds up looking like a pouty little mouth.
- Slide the sponge as far into your vagina as your fingers will reach.
- The sponge will unfold on its own and cover your cervix when you let go.
- 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.
- 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.
- Badda-bing, you’re good to go.
How to take it out
- Wait at least six hours after sex to remove the sponge.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Put a finger inside your vagina and feel for the loop.
- Once you’ve got the loop, pull the sponge out slowly and gently.
- Throw the sponge away in the trash. Don’t flush it!
The good & the bad
- You can put the sponge in up to 24 hours in advance
- You can have sex as many times as you like while it’s in
- Neither you nor your partner should be able to feel the sponge
- Doesn’t affect your hormones
- No prescription necessary
- Can be used while breastfeeding
- Some women have a hard time inserting it
- Can cause vaginal irritation
- May make sex messier, or even dryer
- Some women are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide and shouldn’t use the sponge
- Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk
Also, failure rates vary wildly with the sponge. It all depends on whether or not you’ve had a kid. For women who haven’t given birth, the failure rate is 9% for perfect use, and 16% for real world use. For women who’ve already had kids, the failure rate is way higher—20% for perfect use and 32% for real world use.