Birth Control Sponge

What is a birth control sponge?

The birth control sponge is a soft, round, piece of foam with a chemical in it. It is put into the vagina before sex and used by women as a barrier method of birth control.

The sponge is about 2 inches (5.5 cm) in diameter.

How does it work?

The birth control sponge covers the cervix and blocks sperm from going into the uterus and reaching an egg. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus. The cervix is the opening of the uterus into the vagina. A chemical in the sponge called spermicide kills the sperm.

Before using this form of birth control, talk with your healthcare provider if you have ever had:

  • An allergic reaction to any medicine
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Any vaginal or uterine problems

The sponge may not be the best form of birth control for you if you have given birth or if you had an abortion or miscarriage less than 6 weeks ago. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

How do I use it?


The steps for putting the sponge into the vagina are:

  1. With clean hands, remove the sponge from its package.
  2. Hold the sponge in one hand with the dimple side facing up and the loop dangling down.
  3. Wet the sponge thoroughly with clean tap water. Gently squeeze the sponge until you see suds. This gets the spermicide ready to work and makes it easier to insert the sponge.
  4. With the dimple side facing up and the nylon loop hanging down, fold the sudsy sponge in half and insert it as far into your vagina as you can reach.
  5. After it is inserted, slide your finger around the edge of the sponge to check that it is covering the cervix. You should also be able to feel the loop on the bottom of the sponge.

Do not reuse sponges. If a sponge accidentally falls out, do not put it back in. Use a new sponge.

Do not use other medicines in your vagina (such as douches or medicines for vaginal yeast infections) while the sponge is in place.


  1. Wait at least 6 hours after having sex before you remove the sponge. Don’t leave it in more than 30 hours.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Relax.
  4. Put a finger into your vagina and reach upward to find the nylon loop. Grasp the loop or the sponge with your fingers and slowly and gently pull the sponge out from the vagina. If it seems stuck, wait a few minutes, then try again. If it is still hard to get the sponge out, tighten your vaginal muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Then relax and let go. Repeat. While relaxing, breathe out slowly. Then try to remove the sponge again.
  5. Discard the sponge in a waste container. Do not put it into the toilet.

If you have trouble removing a sponge, or it breaks up into pieces before you get it all out, see your healthcare provider right away.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of the birth control sponge are:

  • You don’t need a prescription to buy one. You can get sponges in drug and grocery stores. You can carry the sponge in a purse or pocket so that it is always handy.
  • The sponge protects against pregnancy as soon as you put it in. Hormonal methods of birth control, like birth control pills, don’t protect against pregnancy until you have been using them for at least 1 menstrual cycle.
  • The sponge doesn’t affect a woman’s natural hormones.
  • Using the sponge does not have to interrupt love-making, since the sponge can be put into the vagina up to 24 hours before sex. While the sponge is in the vagina, you can have sex as many times as you want.
  • The sponge can be used during breast-feeding.

What are the disadvantages?

The disadvantages of the sponge include:

  • The sponge does not keep you from getting AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections. Latex or polyurethane condoms are the only method of birth control that can protect against HIV/AIDS.
  • The chemical in the sponge may irritate the skin around the vagina, penis, or rectum. This may increase your risk of getting HIV/AIDS if your partner is infected.
  • Sponges cost more than some other forms of birth control.
  • It is not as effective in preventing pregnancy as some other forms of birth control. If you have never given birth, 9 to 12 out of 100 women may get pregnant during 1 year of use. If you have given birth, 20 to 24 out of 100 women may get pregnant during 1 year of use.
  • The sponge may cause some drying of the vagina.
  • It takes practice to get comfortable with inserting and removing the sponge.
  • You can’t use the sponge during your menstrual period.
  • You or your partner may get a rash, itching, or irritation of the vagina or penis after using the sponge. If this happens, use a different method of birth control and contact your healthcare provider.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-11
Last reviewed: 2014-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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