Sponge

Quick Facts

Least effective type of birth control

Doesn’t reduce chances of getting an STI

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). It 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 to remove.

  • It’s more effective for people who have not given birth.
  • It must be put in the right way: it must 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 spermicide.
  • Fold the sponge in half with dimple side facing up.
  • Put the sponge as far into vagina as fingers can reach.
  • It will open on its own and cover the cervix.
  • 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. You must leave it in at 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 it, then gently squeeze to release spermicide. Fold it with the dimple facing up and put it into the vagina. Go as far as your fingers can reach.

Orange donut chart showing a large section of 76%, and two smaller sections of 12%%. The title says "76 to 88% effective with typical use"

Effectiveness

  • The sponge is 86% effective with typical use for people who have never given birth.
  • It is 73% effective for people who have given birth. Typical use includes using a spermicide with the sponge.
  • You can improve effectiveness by using it with another method, such as condoms or withdrawal.
  • The sponge is less effective if you have ever given birth. Talk to your provider about finding a method that works best for you.

Benefits

  • Can be used with other methods, like condoms
  • Small and easy to carry with you
  • Hormone-free
  • Can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex. 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.
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A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects and Limitations

  • Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Can be tricky to put it in, and the spermicide can be messy.
  • Some people say it makes them dry during sex. Using lube helps with this.
  • It can cause vaginal irritation.
  • In very rare cases, can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. This is a serious bacterial infection.
  • It can’t be used during your period.
  • If you’re allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide, don’t use the sponge. Talk to your Family PACT provider about other methods that may work better.
  • 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. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo