The sponge is a barrier-based method of birth control. It is a soft round foam sponge made from polyurethane. It is about two inches in diameter.
The sponge covers the cervix to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. It also constantly releases spermicide, nonoxynol-9, to immobilize sperm.
The sponge is inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse. It can be inserted up to twenty four hours before intercourse. It has to be left in place for six hours after intercourse, and should not be worn for more than thirty consecutive hours.
One advantage of the sponge is that it does not inhibit sexual spontaneity. Once you have inserted the sponge, you can have sex as many times as you want for the twenty-four hour period without having to consider more birth control.
The sponge fits easily into a purse or handbag. It is discreet not only before insertion, but after insertion; most men and women say that they cannot feel it. It is textured to feel like a natural vagina.
The sponge does not alter a woman’s hormones, which is often an advantage for a birth control. It is only used when it is needed.
The sponge does not require a prescription, and can be purchased at drug stores. It is slightly more expensive than condoms, however. You will need one sponge for every 24 hours of sexual activeness (whereas with condoms you would need one condom for every act of intercourse).
A disadvantage of the sponge is that it cannot be used during menstruation, or any vaginal bleeding. It is less effective after women have given birth. It should not be used after childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion until your clinician approves. You cannot use the sponge if you are allergic to polyurethane, or if you are allergic to nonoxynol-9. (Learn how to recover from a miscarriage)
Some women have difficulty using the sponge, but this has been likened to the same thing as using contact lenses, you get used to it after a few tries.
The sponge has been associated with an increase in toxic shock syndrome (the same one that happens when you use tampons too often). To help prevent this, never wear a sponge for more than 30 hours, and never use it when you have your period.
Some women notice vaginal irritation when using the sponge. Some women complain that it is too messy and offers too much lubrication. Others complain that it makes sex dry. If there is not enough lubrication, you can use the sponge with a water-based lubricant.
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