Sponge

Quick Facts

Least effective type of birth control

Does not protect from STDs

No prescription needed

May irritate the skin of the vagina

Can be used with other methods

The sponge, a small dish-shaped foam pad with a nylon handle

More About the Sponge

The sponge is a small, dish-shaped foam pad full of spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm) that is put into the vagina to cover the cervix (the opening to the uterus). The sponge has a fabric loop attached to make it easier for it to be taken out.

  • More effective for women who have not given birth.
  • Must be put in the right way – it needs to cover the cervix (the opening of the uterus) in order to work

How to Use the Sponge

  • Wet the sponge with clean hands
  • Gently squeeze to release the spermicide
  • Fold the sponge in half with dimple side facing up
  • Put the sponge as far into vagina as fingers can reach
  • The sponge will open on its own and cover the cervix (the opening of the uterus)
  • Touch the edges to make sure it’s in place. You should be able to feel the nylon loop
  • Don’t leave the sponge in for more than a total of 30 hours.  You can put the sponge in up to 24 hours before sex and must leave it in least 6 hours after sex
Use at least two tablespoons of water to wet the sponge, then gently squeeze to activate the spermicide. Fold the sponge with the dimple facing up and put into the vagina as far as your fingers can reach.

Use at least two tablespoons of water to wet the sponge, then gently squeeze to release the spermicide. Fold the sponge with the dimple facing up and put into the vagina as far as your fingers can reach.

Donut chart with three segments. The caption says "76 to 88% effective with typical use"
Donut chart with three segments. The caption says "80 to 91% effective with perfect use"

Effectiveness

  • 76 to 88% effective with typical use. This mean that on average, 12 to 24 out of 100 women using this method will get pregnant in a year. You can improve effectiveness by:
  • 80 to 91% effective with perfect use. This means that if the sponge is used correctly all the time, 9 to 20 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year.
  • The sponge is less effective if you have ever given birth. You can talk to your provider about finding a method that works better for you.

Benefits

  • Can be used with other methods, like condoms
  • Small and easy to carry with you
  • Hormone-free
  • Can be put in up to 24 hours before sex, so it does not need to interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Most people don’t notice it’s there during sex
  • Easy to get without a prescription
Nine hands each holding a thumbs up
A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects and Limitations

  • Does not protect from STDs
  • Can be tricky to put it in, and the spermicide can be messy
  • Some women say it makes them dry during sex. Using lube can help with this.
  • Can cause vaginal irritation
  • In very rare cases, can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome – a serious bacterial infection
  • Can’t be used during your period
  • If you’re allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide, you shouldn’t use the sponge. Talk to your Family PACT provider about other methods that may work for you.
  • The sponge is not reusable.

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers the cost of the sponge. A Family PACT provider can help you decide if the sponge is the best choice for you. You can search for a Family PACT provider near you by clicking on the “Provider Search” button  in the right hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo