What is the contraceptive sponge?

Soft, small, donut-shaped device preventing pregnancy

The contraceptive sponge is a soft, small doughnut-shaped device containing spermicide. It’s inserted into the vagina to create a barrier to stop sperm from getting through the cervix. There is a small loop attached to it for easy removal. When used correctly, it is 89-91% effective. The sponge was popular in the 1980s and 90s, but it stopped being produced due to lack of commercial profits. It has returned in recent years, but it’s not as well known a method of contraception as the pill, coil, implant or injection.

 

How does the contraceptive sponge work?

The sponge protects against pregnancy in two ways. It covers the cervix to stop sperm from getting through, releasing spermicide to prevent sperm from moving freely and reaching an egg. Once you insert the sponge you can leave it in for 24 hours, just make sure you wait at least six hours after sex to remove it to make sure you are protected from pregnancy. It doesn’t protect you from STIs however, so you may still want to use condoms depending on your situation.

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How do I use the contraceptive sponge?

The sponge needs to be inserted before sex, and you can do this up to 24 hours beforehand. Start by washing your hands thoroughly. After taking the sponge out of the pack you need to wet it with 10-15 drops of water to activate the spermicide. Squeeze to let out any excess water and then fold the sponge in half so that the dimpled side is facing upwards. Gently insert it into the vagina so that the dimple fits against your cervix.

To remove it, hook your index finger onto the loop and gently pull it out in one smooth motion, much like you would with a tampon. The sponge is not reusable so discard it after use.

 

What are the advantages of using the contraceptive sponge?

The sponge is non-hormonal, so you won’t experience any of the side effects associated with hormonal methods of contraception such as the pill. Its foam-like texture makes it more comfortable than a diaphragm, and once the sponge is in place, you won’t be able to feel it. You can have sexual intercourse as many times as you like while you have it in, as long as you don’t leave it in for more than 30 hours. There is also no need to visit a doctor or get a prescription, you can simply purchase the sponge online.

 

What are the disadvantages of using the contraceptive sponge?

The main disadvantage of the sponge is its effectiveness. When used correctly, 89-91% efficiency but typical use puts it as 84-87%. This is largely due to being incorrectly inserted and not covering the cervix properly. It can be difficult to get the hang of, and some women may not be comfortable with the process.

The sponge also cannot be used during your period as this increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome. You may experience dryness while using the sponge, which can be combated using a lubricant. There is a slight risk of toxic shock syndrome occurring. While rare, ensuring that you do not use a sponge while menstruating or for more than 30 hours will keep your risk low.

Another disadvantage may be that using a sponge involves planning ahead, i.e knowing when you are going to be intimate with your partner. While you can insert the sponge 24 hours ahead of intercourse, you can also do this right before sex, but you may find this inconvenient.

 

Is the contraceptive sponge suitable for me?

If you have given birth or had an abortion then it’s not recommended to use a sponge as it will be less effective due to the change in the shape of your vagina. The same goes for women who are allergic to spermicide, have pain in the vagina or a pelvic infection.

The sponge does not protect from sexually transmitted infections and diseases, so if you don’t have a long-term partner that you trust, you should use condoms with the sponge. It’s not as effective as other methods of contraception so it should be used with care.

 

Where can I get the contraceptive sponge?

The sponge is not available on the NHS, but you can purchase it online from a pharmacy or retailer. The most prevalent brand is called the Today Sponge and it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to get a hold of.

 

Sources

https://www.womens-health.co.uk/sponge.html

http://www.todaysponge.com

http://www.wellgirl.co.uk/barrier-contraception/contraceptive-sponge/

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