THE SPONGE

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 you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex.

EFFECTIVENESS
The sponge isn’t the most effective method—especially if you’ve already had a kid.
SIDE-EFFECTS
Usually no side effects, but you or your partner could experience some irritation.
COST
Ranges from $0 to $15 for three sponges.
WHERE TO GET THEM
Available online now and should be appearing in stores soon.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
No hormones, no need to see your doctor.
OTHER NOTES
Once you get used to it, it's pretty easy to use!

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 you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide. Think of it like a bouncer at the nightclub door to the uterus.

Comfortable with your body.

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.

It takes discipline.

You have to remember to insert the sponge before you have sex, so it takes a bit of self-discipline and planning. You must leave it in for at least six hours after the last time you have sex and don’t leave it in for more than 30 hours total. But at least you can carry it with you in your purse.

Allergy issues.

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

Not while you’re bleeding.

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

The pregnancy question.

You’ll be able to get pregnant as soon as you stop using the sponge. So protect yourself with another birth control method right away, if you have sex without it.

The contraceptive sponge is pretty easy to use, but it takes a bit of practice and getting used to it.

How to put it in:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Wet the sponge with at least two tablespoons of water before you put it in.
  3. Give the sponge a gentle squeeze to activate the spermicide.
  4. With the dimple side facing up, fold the sponge in half upward so it winds up looking like a pouting mouth.
  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’s 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, but when it’s in, you can have sex as many times as you want. Do not reuse the same sponge!
  9. Bada bing! You’re good to go.

How to take it out:

  1. Wait at least six hours after sex to remove the sponge.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Put a finger inside your vagina and feel for the loop.
  4. Once you’ve got the loop, pull the sponge out slowly and gently.
  5. Throw the sponge away in the trash. Don’t flush it!

The sponge may seem pricier than most methods, but there’s a catch: three sponges come in one pack, and one sponge can last you up to 24 hours, no matter how many times you have sex. A pack of sponges costs about $5–10.

You can find them online now and they should be appearing in stores soon.

You might still need condoms.

Some people drop condoms too soon. Remember—the sponge doesn’t prevent STIs. Only stop using condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.

The Positive

  • No prescription necessary
  • Put it in up to 24 hours in advance
  • 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

The Negative

  • Some people have difficulty inserting it
  • Can cause irritation in the vagina or on skin or the penis
  • May make sex messier or dryer
  • Some women are allergic to sulfa drugs, polyurethane or spermicide and shouldn’t use the sponge
  • Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk

Don’t take our word for it. Check out these videos to hear women and men talk about their experiences with the sponge.

Sonya, 28, sponge

 

Natalia, 27, sponge

 

Alesondrje, 21, sponge

 

James, 34, sponge

Expert dirt: “Takes planning and body comfort.”