Contraceptive Sponge

Ever since the infamous Seinfeld "sponge-worthy" episode, women's love affair with the contraceptive sponge, and specifically the Today sponge, has received worldwide recognition. Although it is not the most effective of birth control methods, its ease of use and affordability make it one of the most popular forms of contraception among women.

Stopping Pregnancy
Contraceptive sponges are small, disposable sponges. They are usually made of polyurethane foam and are infused with spermicide. Sponges work by not only blocking sperm from entering the uterus but also by absorbing and killing off the sperm.

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To use a sponge, you need to first moisten it with water so that it becomes foamy and then insert it into your vagina, positioning it so that it sits over the cervix. Like the diaphragm, a contraceptive sponge can be worn for 12 to 24 hours. However, unlike the diaphragm, a contraceptive sponge offers continuous protection during that time, regardless of how often you have sex. After having sex, it is necessary to wait six hours before removing the sponge.

Failure rates for the sponge can vary widely depending on whether or not you have had a child as well as whether or not you have inserted the sponge properly. Anywhere between 8% and 32% of women using the sponge will become pregnant per year. Women who have given birth vaginally are much more likely to have this method of birth control fail. Contraceptive sponges do not offer any protection against sexually transmitted diseases (also known as sexually transmitted infections). Therefore it is necessary to still use a condom to help protect against STDs when you have sex.

Side Effects
Since contraceptive sponges do not use hormones to prevent pregnancy, there are few side effects associated with their use. However, it is possible for the sponge to shred or tear during use. Additionally, some women who use the sponge may experience more yeast infections. Women who are allergic to spermicide may experience irritation when they use a contraceptive sponge.

As with other barrier methods, there is a risk, albeit rare, of developing toxic shock syndrome. For this reason, sponges should not be left in for more than 30 hours, including the necessary six hours waiting period after having sex. You should also not use the sponge if you have your period or have a history of toxic shock syndrome.

The Worthiness of the Today Sponge
First put on the market in 1983, the Today sponge was taken off the shelves in the United States in 1995, much to the dismay of many women. The reason for the removal of the product was due to water contamination at the manufacturing factory, which was compromising the product. Rather than improve their facilities, the company decided to cease production altogether. Ten years later, though, the Today sponge has received FDA approval and is back on store shelves in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Although there are other types of sponges available, the Today sponge is the only brand that allows a woman to keep the sponge in place for up to 24 hours.

For more information on the sponge, visit Contraception Information Resource.

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