One of the available nonhormonal birth control solutions includes the so-called birth control sponge. In order to prevent conception, the person has to insert the contraceptive sponge into their vagina. However, this vaginal sponge is not a protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Keep in mind, though, that the use of sponge birth control may not be a suitable method for everyone, especially for those allergic to polyurethane and spermicide and those suffering from recurring vaginal infections. This is why it’s essential to seek gynecology services at a professional and reputable institution where the doctor can suggest the ideal birth control method for an individual’s particular needs.
What Is the Sponge Birth Control?
The birth control sponge also referred to as a vaginal sponge or contraceptive sponge, is essentially a piece of plastic foam that’s round and soft. It also has a small loop attached to make the removal process easier. In the US, one sponge birth control brand is available, namely the Today Sponge. When discussing what sponge birth control is, it’s important to mention that this contraceptive sponge is actually filled with spermicide (nonoxynol-9). For pregnancy prevention, it’s only inserted into the vagina before engaging in sexual intercourse.
In terms of what sponge birth control is, it basically involves two main ways of preventing pregnancy: covering the cervix to block the sperm and releasing spermicide to kill the sperm. The vaginal sponge can also trap and absorb the sperm.
How to Use Sponge Birth Control?
Unlike other birth control methods, using the contraceptive sponge may require a bit more time and effort until getting used to it. Consider the following steps for proper insertion:
- Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before inserting the sponge.
- Get the sponge wet using clean water until it’s thoroughly soaked but not dripping, and then proceed to squeeze it to get the spermicide activated.
- Fold the sponge upward so that it’s narrow and long, with the loop hanging down from the middle of the fold.
- While keeping the sponge folded, insert it into the vagina as deeply as possible.
- Once in place, release the fold so that it can fully cover the cervix and slide out the finger around it.
Just like it’s essential to learn how to insert the birth control sponge properly, you have to know how to remove it as well:
- Again, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly
- Proceed to reach into your vagina with fingers to grab the sponge’s loop
- Pull the loop gently to remove the sponge and then throw it way slowly
Keep in mind that the birth control sponge is not reusable. Always trash it in a bin – don’t try to flush it down the toilet. The sponge can be inserted immediately before sexual intercourse but also up to 24 hours before. Most importantly, do not remove the sponge right after the sexual activity; make sure to wait for at least six hours before removal to ensure that the sperm is blocked and killed off. Since the sponge shouldn’t remain inside the vagina for more than 30 hours, make sure to calculate the timing for insertion with the waiting period after the intercourse correctly.
How Effective Is Vaginal Sponge?
In general, all kinds of barrier birth control, including sponges, condoms, and spermicide, tend to be less effective than hormonal birth control. What’s more, a birth control sponge doesn’t provide protection against STDs; only a condom does.
That said, it’s been reported that about 28 in 100 people who use barrier birth control still get pregnant annually. To boost the sponge’s efficiency, it’s crucial to follow the instructions to a tee. Some people prefer to combine barrier birth control methods for added safety, such as using the sponge and condom simultaneously.
Furthermore, women who have never given birth benefit from higher birth control sponge effectiveness compared to those who have. So, the contraceptive sponge offers around 91% of effective protection to women who haven’t given birth and around 80% to women who have.
Potential Risks When Using Sponge Birth Control
Side effects of using a contraceptive sponge are rare but not nonexistent. Those sensitive to spermicide could experience vaginal irritation and burning, increasing the risk of getting STDs. The sponge also contains sulfites and polyurethane, which some people may be allergic to.
Very rarely, the person using the vaginal sponge for contraception may develop toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The risk of TSS increases in the following circumstances:
- The sponge is left inside the vagina for more than 30 hours
- The woman uses the sponge while menstruating
- The sponge is inserted shortly after giving birth
- The woman experiences miscarriage or gets an abortion
It’s recommended to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to use a vaginal sponge as a birth control method safely.
Pros and Cons of the Birth Control Sponge
Just like with other kinds of contraceptives, using sponge birth control has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The pros include the following:
- The sponge is safe to use together with condoms
- It can be purchased without a prescription
- The vaginal sponge doesn’t release hormones
- Right after its removal, a woman can try to conceive
- It can be used as needed, with no particular schedule to follow
- It’s relatively easy to use
The cons of this birth control method, on the other hand, include:
- Less effective pregnancy protection for those who have already given birth
- Not suitable to use the sponge while menstruating or right after giving birth
- The sponge doesn’t provide protection against STDs
- On rare occasions, the sponge can lead to TSS
- Even though it’s easy to use, it can be a bit messy
Make sure to seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any of the potential TSS symptoms while or right after using the birth control sponge:
- High fever and flu-like symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Unusual redness in the whites of the eyes, tongue, and lips
- Widespread and sudden rash
- Confusion, dizziness, fainting
- Shortness of breath
Even though a birth control sponge is readily available for purchase, it would be best to talk to your doctor about the safest and most effective birth control method for you in particular. There are many different options in regard to contraception, but not all of them can be equally recommended to everyone. For instance, while hormonal birth control tends to be the safest option in terms of pregnancy protection, some people with certain underlying medical conditions simply can’t use it. The doctor will take into account your own preferences as well as your medical history when deciding what the best birth control methods would be for you. If you’re interested in starting birth control or simply want to maintain and/or improve your gynecological health, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Advanced OBGYN Institute. You can count on our expert physicians to provide you with a professional and tailored medical service, from screenings and assessments to hormone replacement therapy.