Contraception Barrier Methods Sponge

Among the more popular barrier methods of contraception is the contraceptive sponge. This is a physical barrier inserted into a woman’s vagina that is designed to prevent conception.

What is the Birth Control Sponge?

Commonly referred to simply as “the sponge,” the female contraceptive sponge is a polyurethane barrier device inserted vaginally before intercourse. For maximum effectiveness, the contraceptive sponge must be correctly placed across the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus and upper reproductive tract, thus minimizing chance of pregnancy.

Contraceptive Sponge - Birth Control

In addition to acting as a barrier, the contraceptive sponge also contains spermicide, killing and absorbing semen before it can enter the uterus.

The birth control sponge was once the most popular over-the-counter contraceptive device for women after it was introduced in drugstores in 1983. It was recalled in 1994 after concerns about manufacturing, but has since been reintroduced as the “Today” sponge contraceptive.

The sponge has a failure rate of more than 10 percent — considerably greater than properly-used condoms or birth control pills — and it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. However, the sponge remains popular among women who seek control over their own contraceptives and the convenience of a product that does not require a doctor’s prescription.

The Benefits of Using a Contraceptive Sponge

The birth control sponge is an excellent contraceptive option for many women. Benefits of using the female contraceptive sponge include:

  • They are widely available
  • They’re small enough to carry in a purse
  • They can’t be felt by your partner when having intercourse
  • They don’t affect your hormones.

One of the major appeals of using a sponge is that it can be worn for up to 30 hours, and a woman can have intercourse multiple times during that period without having to remove or reinsert the sponge. It also does not have any long-term effects on a woman’s ability to get pregnant.

Drawbacks of Using a Contraceptive Sponge

On the downside, the Today sponge contraceptive doesn’t protect against STDs, and it’s not as effective as other barrier methods of preventing pregnancy.

Some studies have connected the sponge with toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection. For some women, the sponge is difficult to remove, and has even been known to break into pieces. If this happens, or it is too difficult to remove, see a health care provider.

During sex, some women have reported feelings of dryness or irritation when using a sponge, but a water-based lubricant can often help. For those at risk of HIV, the female contraceptive sponge may increase the risk as it contains spermicide nonoxynol-9.

Purchasing the Sponge

The Today sponge contraceptive is the most common brand of the sponge. You can buy contraceptive sponge birth control for $9 to $15 for a package of three. They can also commonly be found in:

  • Family planning clinics
  • Drugstores
  • Online
  • Some supermarkets.


American Pregnancy Association Staff. (n.d.). The contraceptive sponge. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the American Pregnancy Web site:

Planned Parenthood Staff. (n.d.). Birth control sponge: The today sponge. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Planned Parenthood Web site: