The vaginal contraceptive sponge is a barrier method of
birth control. It contains a spermicide called
nonoxynol-9 that is released over the 24 hours that the sponge may be left in
the vagina. The sponge also blocks the cervix so sperm can't pass. It can be
inserted immediately before intercourse or up to 24 hours before. It is left in
place for 6 hours after intercourse.
Effectiveness in preventing pregnancy
The sponge is
less effective for women who have delivered vaginally than it is for women who
Sponge failure rates for women who have never
delivered vaginally range from 9% to 16%. In other words, for this group of
women, from 9 to 16 out of 100 will become pregnant in the first year of using
Sponge failure rates for women
who have given birth by vaginal delivery range from 20% to 32%. For this group
of women, from 20 to 32 out of 100 will become pregnant in the first year of
using a sponge.1
The difference in sponge failure rates for women who have
given birth to children vaginally and those who have not may be due to changes
in the cervix after vaginal delivery.
Effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
The sponge does not protect against
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including
HIV. Some studies show that use of the sponge dries
and irritates the vagina, which may increase the risk of HIV infection.2
The use of spermicides with nonoxynol-9 may increase your risk of
getting HIV/AIDS. So be sure to use a condom for STI protection unless you
know that you and your partner are
Advantages of contraceptive sponge
It does not affect future fertility for either the woman or the
It is used only at the time of sexual
It is safe to use while breast-feeding.
It is available in drugstores without a prescription.
Disadvantages of contraceptive sponge
for the sponge and other barrier methods are higher than for most other methods
of birth control. Other disadvantages of the sponge include the
Some people are embarrassed to use this method
or feel the method interrupts foreplay or intercourse.
must be comfortable with using the sponge and be prepared to use it every time
they have sex.
Trussell J (2007). Choosing a contraceptive:
Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds.,
Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 19–47. New
York: Ardent Media.
Speroff L, Darney PD (2011). Barrier methods of contraception. In A Clinical Guide for Contraception, 5th ed., pp. 281–313. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.