Birth Control Sponge

The birth control sponge is a contraceptive (birth control) device. It’s placed inside your vagina just before sex to help prevent pregnancy. The birth control sponge is also called the contraceptive sponge or “the sponge.”

Birth control sponge properly inserted into the vagina.
When placed properly, the birth control sponge covers your cervix.

What is the sponge birth control method?

The birth control sponge is a small, round, soft piece of plastic (polyurethane) foam that’s coated with spermicide. You insert it into your vagina before having sex. It covers your cervix and helps prevent sperm from reaching your uterus.


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Who should consider using a contraceptive sponge?

People who want a hormone-free birth control option could benefit from the sponge. It’s also a good option for people who want to buy birth control without a prescription. Keep in mind, you should always talk with your healthcare provider before making any decisions about your reproductive health.

Is the birth control sponge still available?

Yes. Though the birth control sponge was taken off the market in 1994 – and again in 2008 – it was reintroduced for a second time in 2009.

Why was the birth control sponge discontinued?

The birth control sponge was introduced in 1983, but was discontinued in 1994 after FDA inspectors discovered bacterial contamination at its manufacturing plant. The sponge reemerged in 2005 under new ownership. The new owners promoted the product and then sold it to another company – a business that went bankrupt in 2007. A new distributor picked up the birth control sponge in 2009, and the product has been sold nationwide since then.

How it Works


How does the birth control sponge work?

The birth control sponge helps prevent pregnancy in a few different ways. The sponge:

  • Traps and absorbs sperm.
  • Continuously releases spermicide to kill sperm.
  • Covers the cervix so that sperm can’t reach the egg.

How do I insert a contraceptive sponge?

You can insert the birth control sponge up to 24 hours before having sex. The process takes a bit of preparation compared to other types of birth control:

  1. Wash your hands. Be sure to use antibacterial soap and clean water.
  2. Activate the spermicide. Run the sponge under water and squeeze it until it’s soapy and wet all the way through. (It shouldn’t be dripping, though.)
  3. Fold the sponge. You should fold the sponge in half, away from the loop, so that it’s narrow and long.
  4. Insert the sponge. Using your fingers, place the sponge as deep into your vagina as possible.
  5. Release. The sponge will spread out and cover your cervix. (Check the edges of the sponge with your fingers to ensure it covers your entire cervix.)

Once you insert the sponge, you can have sex multiple times before removing it.

How long should I leave the birth control sponge in after having sex?

You must wait at least six hours after having sex to remove the birth control sponge. However, don’t leave it in for more than 30 hours.


How do I remove a birth control sponge?

When you’re ready to remove your contraceptive sponge:

  1. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and clean water.
  2. Use your fingers to find the loop that’s attached to the sponge.
  3. Grab the loop and gently pull the sponge out.
  4. Throw the sponge away. (Never flush the sponge down the toilet.)

Risks / Benefits

How effective is sponge birth control?

The sponge is about 88% effective for women who’ve never given birth. For those who have given birth, the sponge is about 80% effective. These estimates are based on perfect use every time.

In comparison, condoms are 98% effective when used properly, and birth control pills are 99% effective when used properly. For this reason, it’s a good idea to combine the sponge with other forms of birth control if you want maximum pregnancy prevention.

What are the advantages of using a birth control sponge?

Here are some of the most notable birth control sponge advantages:

  • There’s no need for a prescription. The birth control sponge is available over-the-counter in most pharmacies, grocery stores and health centers.
  • The sponge delivers 24-hour protection. After you’ve inserted the sponge into your vagina, you can have sex as many times as you want within the next 24 hours.
  • It’s a hormone-free option. The contraceptive sponge is a great option for people who prefer non-hormonal birth control. It’s even safe to use while breastfeeding (chestfeeding).
  • You don’t have to worry about interrupting sex. Because you can insert the sponge up to 24 hours before sex, you don’t have to worry about birth control in the heat of the moment.

What are the risks or complications of the birth control sponge?

The biggest disadvantage of the birth control sponge is that it doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs & STIs). Additionally, the spermicide in the sponge may cause:

Remember, there are several birth control sponge pros and cons to consider. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

It’s a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider before deciding whether or not to use the birth control sponge. But you should definitely consult with them if you’ve recently given birth, had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

Additional Common Questions

Can my partner feel the sponge?

Some partners may be able to feel the sponge during sex. However, the sponge is made from a soft material that mimics normal vaginal tissue – so most people don’t even know that it’s there.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Choosing the best birth control method is important – and what’s right for someone else may not be right for you. It’s important to discuss all options with your healthcare provider so you can make an informed decision about your reproductive health.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 10/21/2022.

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