The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It’s pretty small—just two inches across—and is inserted into the vagina before have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks the cervix to keep sperm from getting into the uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide.


No hormones, no prescription, and can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex. Just remember, the sponge does not protect against sexually transmitted infections

If you’re not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, the sponge probably isn’t for you. It’s a lot like putting in a tampon, though. If you can do that, you can probably manage the sponge.

You’ve got to remember to insert the sponge each and every time you have sex, so it takes a bit of self-discipline and planning. But at least you can carry it with you in your purse if you want.

If you’re allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide, you shouldn’t use the sponge.

If you’re having your period, don’t use the sponge.

You’ll be able to get pregnant as soon as you stop using the sponge. So protect yourself with another method right away.

HERE’S THE HANDY THING ABOUT THE SPONGE—you can insert it up to 24 hours before you get busy. So there’s no need to fumble in the dark right before the big
moment. But it does take a bit of practice getting it in, so follow these instructions.


  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Wet the sponge with at least two tablespoons of water before you put it in.

  • Give the sponge a gentle squeeze. (That’ll activate the spermicide.)

  • With the dimple side facing up, fold the sponge in half upward, so that it winds up looking like a pouty little mouth.

  • Slide the sponge as far into your vagina as your fingers will reach.

  • The sponge will unfold on its own and cover your cervix when you let go.

  • Slide your finger around the edge of the sponge to make sure it’s in place. You should be able to feel the nylon loop on the bottom of the sponge.

  • You should only insert the sponge once (no repeat uses), but when it’s in, you can have sex as many times as you want.

  • Badda-bing, you’re good to go.


  • Wait at least six hours after sex to remove the sponge.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Put a finger inside your vagina and feel for the loop.

  • Once you’ve got the loop, pull the sponge out slowly and gently.

  • Throw the sponge away in the trash. Don’t flush it!

THERE ARE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE THINGS TO SAY about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.


  • Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.

  • You can put the sponge in up to 24 hours in advance

  • You can have sex as many times as you like while it’s in

  • Neither you nor your partner should be able to feel the sponge

  • Doesn’t affect your hormones

  • No prescription necessary

  • Can be used while breastfeeding


  • Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for most people, they’re not a problem.

  • Some people have a hard time inserting it

  • Can cause vaginal irritation

  • May make sex messier, or even dryer

  • Some people are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide and shouldn’t use the sponge

  • Also, failure rates vary wildly with the sponge. It all depends on whether or not you’ve had a kid. For people who haven’t given birth, the failure rate is 9% for perfect use, and 16% for real world use. For people who’ve already had kids, the failure rate is way higher—20% for perfect use and 32% for real world use.

WE’RE HERE TO GET THIS METHOD WORKING BETTER FOR YOU. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected during your switch.

Try this: Check to see if you’ve got the sponge inserted deep enough, up against your cervix. (That’s the number one reason for it falling out.)

Still not working?
If you’re still having trouble, and you’re committed to using a barrier method, you may want to switch to male condoms, female condoms or a diaphragm. Or, if you’d like to try something you won’t have to insert or use every time you have sex, check out the IUD, the shot, the implant, the patch, or the pill.

The irritation is likely from the spermicide—and since there’s no way to separate the two, you’re probably out of luck.

Still not working?
Think about trying a method that doesn’t require any spermicide.
If you want to keep using a barrier method, consider using male condoms or female condoms
You might also consider using a method you don’t have to think about each time you have sex, like an IUD, the shot, the implant, the ring, the patch, or the pill.


The sponge isn’t the most effective method—especially if you’ve already had a kid.

Perfect Use


Typical Use


Side Effects

Usually no side effects, but you could experience some irritation.


Have to put it in every time you have sex (but could be done hours ahead of time).

How do I get it?

Available online now and should be appearing in stores soon. Find your local health center here.