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Birth Control Sponge: All About This Squishy Contraception Method

Have you ever heard about the contraceptive sponge? This type of birth control isn’t as well known as other contraceptive methods, so we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about it.

So, what is the birth control sponge?

The contraceptive vaginal sponge is both a barrier and spermicidal birth control method. It works by preventing sperm from entering your uterus. The sponge is made out of polyurethane foam and shaped like a disk. It feels soft and squishy to the touch, and it snugly covers your cervix to block sperm from entering your uterine cavity.

The sponge also contains spermicide, a substance that kills or immobilizes sperm cells, further increasing the efficacy of this method.

One of the benefits of the birth control sponge is that it only needs to be used when you have sex, rather than having to take a pill every day or using a long-term contraceptive method. It’s also a non-hormonal type of birth control.

The contraceptive sponge doesn’t require a medical prescription or fitting and it’s available in many pharmacies and online. However, you should ideally consult a doctor before trying out any new birth control method. A healthcare professional will be the best person to address your birth control questions.

The effectiveness of the contraceptive sponge varies according to whether you have given birth and use it correctly. The effectiveness rate of the birth control sponge with typical use is:

  • 88% for women who have never given birth
  • 76% for women who have given birth in the past

You can use sponge as a backup method of contraception if your partner uses a condom when you have sex. Additionally, condoms are a good contraceptive method that can protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In addition, the sponge doesn’t affect milk supply when you’re breastfeeding.

You can insert the birth control sponge up to 24 hours before you engage in intercourse. Follow these steps to insert the birth control sponge correctly:

  • Take the sponge out of its package with clean hands. Certain brands must be moistened with approximately two tablespoons of water to activate the spermicide, whereas other sponge brands come ready to use. Make sure you read the instructions to determine whether you need to wet your sponge.
  • Gently squeeze out any excess water. The sponge should feel wet, foamy, and lathery before insertion.
  • Fold the sides of the sponge up, keeping the indented side of the sponge facing up, with the loop facing down.
  • Get into a comfortable position, as if you were inserting a tampon or menstrual cup.
  • As you insert the sponge into your vagina, the indented side should face the front of your body. The loop side should be facing your back.
  • Slide the sponge as far up into your vagina as possible. When the sponge is in place, it will unfold and cover your cervix.
  • Gently slide a finger around the edge of the sponge to determine whether it’s properly blocking your cervix.

You can have intercourse as many times as you wish for up to 24 hours after you’ve inserted your sponge. You won’t need extra spermicide for each time you have sex.

Here are a few tips you might find useful while removing the birth control sponge: 

  • Leave the contraceptive sponge in place for 6 hours after you’ve had sex. You shouldn’t wear the sponge for longer than 30 straight hours.
  • Once you’re ready to remove the sponge, wash your hands and hook a finger around the fabric loop.
  • If you can’t reach the sponge easily, push with your vaginal muscles as you grab it.
  • Then, simply pull the sponge out and discard it in the trash. Don’t flush a birth control sponge down the toilet.
  • You should never reuse a contraceptive sponge.

Although you don’t need a medical prescription to buy the birth control sponge, there are certain contraindications for its use. Ask your doctor about switching to another contraceptive method if you:

  • Have an anatomical peculiarity in your vagina or cervix which can affect the way the sponge fits over your cervical opening
  • Have experienced toxic shock syndrome (TSS) in the past
  • Are at a high risk of contracting HIV or another STI
  • Are not likely to use the sponge correctly or consistently, or if you have sex three or more times per week
  • Are on your period or currently have vaginal bleeding
  • Have recently given birth or had an abortion or miscarriage up to 6 weeks before
  • Suffer from frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Are allergic to the components of the sponge, either polyurethane or spermicide (nonoxynol-9)

Just like any other type of medical product, there are certain risks associated with using the birth control sponge. These risks include:

  • Toxic shock syndrome: This is a rare, sudden, and very serious condition that occurs when a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus releases toxins into your system. The risk of developing TSS increases if you leave the sponge inside your body for longer than 30 hours. Initial symptoms include chills, fever, malaise, skin rash, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain, among others. You should seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you’ve developed TSS.
  • Vaginal dryness: The components of the sponge can cause vaginal discomfort such as dryness and irritation. Some people find that the sponge can also absorb their natural lubrication and make sex uncomfortable; try adding a water or silicone-based lubricant if this happens.
  • Increased risk of getting an STI: The sponge provides no protection from most STIs, and the irritation caused by the sponge and the spermicide can increase your risk of getting an infection. This is because irritated tissues provide easier access for viruses and bacteria.
  • UTIs or yeast infections: Using the sponge increases the risk of getting a UTI or yeast infection.
  • Difficult removal: It’s usually easy to remove a birth control sponge. However, if it breaks into pieces that you can’t retrieve, you may need to seek medical attention. Leaving in pieces of the sponge can increase your risk of TSS or cause an infection.

The birth control sponge has both pros and cons, and there are several factors that you need to take into consideration before deciding whether you should use it.

This method can be a good choice for people who can always use it correctly, who haven’t given birth, and who wish to avoid hormonal or long-term contraceptive methods. However, the sponge may not be for you if you’ve given birth, have sex frequently, are at risk of contracting an STI, or can’t use it correctly every time you have intercourse.

And although the sponge contraceptive doesn’t contain any hormones, it still carries certain risks. Talk to a healthcare provider before choosing your birth control method to make sure that you’re making the best choice for your body and health.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/contraceptive-sponge/about/pac-20384547

https://www.hhs.gov/opa/pregnancy-prevention/birth-control-methods/sponge/index.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12137678

https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/UnintendedPregnancy/PDF/Contraceptive_methods_508.pdf

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Barrier-Methods-of-Birth-Control-Spermicide-Condom-Sponge-Diaphragm-and-Cervical-Cap?IsMobileSet=false

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