How does the contraceptive sponge work? Where to buy contraceptive sponges? What is the contraceptive sponge effectiveness? We answer all these questions!


The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam. It has a dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top. It is 5 cm across, and you insert it into your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: it keeps sperm from getting into your uterus by blocking your cervix, and also continuously releases spermicide.


Quick Facts

  • No hormones. No prescription.
  • You can insert it up to 24 hours before sex
  • Effectiveness: the sponge is not the most effective method, especially if you have already had a kid. With common use, only 76 to 88 of every 100 individuals will manage to prevent pregnancy.
  • Side effects: you may have some irritation
  • Effort: high – you have to put it in every time you have sex
  • Doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).


Good option if you do not mind getting pregnant. Most people do not use the sponge correctly, so women often wind up pregnant. If you do not want to get pregnant or have a baby, think about using a different method.

You are comfortable with your body. If you are not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, the sponge is not the best option for you. It is a lot like putting in a tampon, though: if you can do that, you can probably manage the sponge.

It takes discipline. You have to remember to insert the sponge every time you have sex. You will need a bit of self-discipline and planning. But at least you can carry it with you if you want.

Allergies? You should not use the sponge if you are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide.

The pregnancy question. The sponge has no hormones, so you will be able to get pregnant as soon as you stop using the sponge. Protect yourself with another method if you stop using the sponge and do not want to get pregnant.


How To Use

You can insert the sponge up to 24 hours before you have sex. It does take a bit of practice to use it correctly, so follow these instructions.


How to put it in:[4]

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. Let them air dry.
  2. Wet the sponge with at least 30 mL of clean water before you put it in.
  3. Activate the spermicide by giving the sponge a gentle squeeze.
  4. With the dimple side facing up, fold the sponge in half upward.
  5. Slide the sponge as far into your vagina as your fingers will reach.
  6. The sponge will unfold on its own and cover your cervix when you let go.
  7. Slide your finger around the edge of the sponge to make sure it is in place. You should be able to feel the nylon loop on the bottom of the sponge.
  8. You should only insert the sponge once. Do not reuse a sponge that you have already had inside you. When it is in, you can have sex as many times as you want.
  9. You are ready to have sex once it is inside.


How to take it out:[3]

  1. Leave it in for at least six hours after sex.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Put a finger inside your vagina and feel for the loop.
  4. Once you have the loop, pull the sponge out slowly and gently.
  5. Throw the sponge away in the trash. Keep it away from children and animals.


Tips and tricks

The sponge needs to be completely wet to activate the spermicide. Make sure to squeeze it to distribute the water.

Side Effects

Everyone is different. What you experience may not be the same thing as another person.

The Positive:[2]

  • You can put the sponge in up to 24 hours in advance
  • You can have sex as many times as you like while it is in
  • Neither you nor your partner should be able to feel the sponge
  • It is hormone-free
  • No prescription necessary
  • Can be used while breastfeeding

The Negative:[4]

  • Some women have a hard time inserting it
  • Can cause vaginal irritation
  • May make sex messier
  • May make sex dryer
  • Some women are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicide and should not use the sponge
  • Hard to remember to use if you are drunk

Failure rates vary wildly with the sponge. It can depend on whether or not you have had a kid. For women who have not given birth, the failure rate is 9% for perfect use, and 16% for the typical way people use it. For women who have already had kids, the failure rate is higher – 20% for perfect use and 32% for real-world use.


[2] Mayer Laboratories, Inc. (2018). Drug facts: TODAY VAGINAL CONTRACEPTIVE- nonoxynol-9 sponge. Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=6b4e54d7-6ba8-4400-bd52-75d112e6fe50&type=pdf&name=6b4e54d7-6ba8-4400-bd52-75d112e6fe50
[3] Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (2015). Canadian Contraception Consensus Chapter 5: Barrier Methods. JOGC Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada , 37. Retrieved from https://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)39376-8/pdf
[4] Shoupe, D. (2016). Barrier Contraceptives: Male Condoms, Vaginal Spermicides, and Cervical Barrier Methods. En D. Shoupe, The Handbook of Contraception: A Guide for Practical Management. Retrieved from http://eknygos.lsmuni.lt/springer/677/147-177.pdf
[5] World Health Organization. (2016). Selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use. Geneva. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/252267/9789241565400-eng.pdf?sequence=1
[6] World Health Organization Department of Reproductive Health and Research and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (2018) Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers. Baltimore and Geneva. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260156/9780999203705-eng.pdf?sequence=1
[7] Xia, et al. (2020). DL-Mandelic acid exhibits high sperm-immobilizing activity and low vaginalirritation: A potential non-surfactant spermicide for contraception. Elsevier Masson. Retrieved from https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0753332220302961?token=063F3CA5FE829FE276755EF2EE8152EBC11B2906592153330A395D73878C354BC3E701A06960C98C04FA57B0D8AB401A