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The Sponge: A Barrier Method of Birth Control

By HERWriter
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Pregnancy related image Photo: Getty Images

The contraceptive sponge is a polyurethane foam doughnut which contains a spermicide. The sponge must first be moistened with tap water and then inserted deep into the vagina so that it can completely cover the cervix. It blocks access to the uterus and the spermicide will kill sperm.

The sponge is put in place prior to sex. It does not need to be changed if you have intercourse more than once. Once in place, a contraceptive sponge will continue to offer protection each time you have sex.

It must be left in place for at least six hours after the last time you have intercourse. Then after you're done with it, the sponge is thrown away.

The sponge can be left in place for between 12 and 24 hours. This includes the six hours after intercourse.

The Today sponge is the only brand of sponge that can safely be kept in place for as long as 24 hours.

The estimated effectiveness of a contraceptive sponge will range between 64 percent and 82 percent. Failure rates are higher for women who have had a vaginal birth when the fit may be less snug.

Up to 32 percent of women who use the sponge will get pregnant every year. The more carefully a woman uses the sponge, the better chance she will have of avoiding pregnancy.

The more frequently she has intercourse, the higher the risk of sponge failure. The sponge is considered to be less effective as a form of birth control than a diaphragm.

The contraceptive sponge can shred or tear during use. It can be difficult to remove, although this is less of a problem now because of a woven loop that's been added.

The sponge can put some women at risk for yeast infection. It can cause irritation or allergic reaction. Despite these drawbacks, the sponge does not cause adverse side effects like other methods of birth control that use hormones.

When left in longer than 30 hours, the sponge can cause risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Toxic shock syndrome is a potentially dangerous condition caused by bacteria.

Any product like the sponge or other barrier contraceptive, or tampon, when left in too long, can put a woman at risk for TSS.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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