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Cervical Barrier Contraceptives for Women

Contraceptive Sponge
Average Failure: 16-32%

The Today sponge was removed from the US market in 1995 due to manufacturing problems which were resulting in contamination of the product. As of 2005, the Today sponge has returned to the US market. The Today Sponge is the only brand available in the US, but other brands are available in Canada and abroad.

How the Contraceptive Sponge Works

The contraceptive sponge is a small, disposable foam sponge that already contains nonoxynol-9 spermicide. It prevents pregnancy by acting as a cervical barrier to semen and by killing sperm before they can reach an egg.

Who Should Consider the Sponge

The sponge may be a good option for the following groups of women:

  • Women who like the convenience of a disposable contraceptive
  • Women who prefer an over-the-counter option because there is no need to visit a physician
  • Women who smoke, and therefore should not use hormonal methods of birth control
  • Women who are over age 35, and therefore should not use hormonal methods of birth control
  • Women who experience side-effects from hormonal methods
  • Women who prefer non-hormonal methods of birth control
  • Women who need a backup method to a condom for extra protection from pregnancy
  • Women who need a backup method to to the pill (when pills are missed, during first month of use, or if using drugs that interfere with pill effectiveness)
  • Women who prefer a method affording sexual spontaneity without messy gels and creams
  • Women who have difficulty being fitted for or using a diaphragm

Using the Contraceptive Sponge

Before intercourse, the sponge should be moistened with water (not saliva). A woman then then places the sponge over the cervix. Once in place, the sponge provides protection for twenty-four hours, no matter how often you have intercourse. Because it is made of a soft foam, the sponge is usually not felt by a woman or her partner.

Effectiveness of the Contraceptive Sponge

The sponge is about as effective as a diaphragm, but, like the cervical cap, it is less effective for women who have already borne children.

Side-Effects and Health Risks of the Sponge

The sponge is a fairly safe method of birth control, unless either person has an allergy to spermicide. In addition to toxic shock syndrome, women who use the sponge may be at higher risk of vaginal yeast infections.

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