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The vaginal contraceptive sponge is a barrier method of birth control. It contains a spermicide called nonoxynol-9. 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.
The sponge is less effective for women who have delivered vaginally than it is for women who have not.
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.
The sponge does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including infection with HIV. Some studies show that use of the sponge dries and irritates the vagina, which may increase the risk of HIV infection.footnote 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 infection-free.
Failure rates for the sponge and other barrier methods are higher than for most other methods of birth control. Other disadvantages of the sponge include the following:
CitationsTrussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 20th ed., pp. 45-74. Atlanta: 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.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerRebecca Sue Uranga, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofMarch 16, 2017
Current as of: March 16, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Rebecca Sue Uranga, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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