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    Vaginal sponge and spermicides

    Birth control - over the counter; Contraceptives - over the counter

    Spermicides and vaginal sponges are twobirth control methods used during sex to prevent pregnancy. Over-the-counter means that they can be purchased by anyone without a prescription.


    Spermicides and vaginal sponges do not work as well at preventingpregnancy as some other forms of birth control. However, using a spermicide or sponge is much better than not using birth control at all.


    Spermicides are chemicals that stop sperm frommoving. They come asgels, foams, creams, or suppositories. Theyare inserted into the vagina before sex. You can buy spermicides in most drug and grocery stores.

    • Spermicidesalone do not work very well. About15 pregnancies occur out of every 100 womenwho correctly usethis method alone over 1 year.
    • If spermicides are not used correctly, the risk of pregnancy is more than 25 for every 100 women each year.
    • Usingspermicides along with other methods such as male or female condoms or the diaphragm will reduce the chance of pregnancy even more.
    • Even by using a spermicide alone, however, you are still much less likely to become pregnant than if you did not use any birth control.

    How to use spermicide:

    • Using your fingers or applicator, place the spermicide deepinto the vagina 10 minutes before having sex. It should continue to work for about 60 minutes.
    • You will need to use more spermicide every time you have sex.
    • Do not douche for at least 6 hours after sex.

    Spermicides do not reduce your chance of an infection. They mayincrease the risk of spreading HIV.

    Risks include irritation and allergic reactions.


    Vaginal contraceptive sponges are soft sponges covered with a spermicide.

    A sponge can be inserted into the vagina up to 24 hours before intercourse.

    • Follow the specific instructions that came with the product.
    • Push the sponge as far back into the vagina as possible, and place itover the cervix. Make sure the sponge covers the cervix.
    • Leave the sponge in the vagina for 6-8 hours after having sex.

    Do not use the sponge if you have:

    • Vaginal bleeding or are on your period
    • An allergy to sulfa drugs, polyurethane, or spermicides
    • An infection in the vagina, cervix, or uterus
    • Had an abortion, miscarriage, or a baby

    How well does the sponge work?

    • About 9 to 12 pregnancies occur out of every 100 women who use sponges correctly over 1 year.Sponges are more effective in women who have never given birth.
    • If sponges are not used correctly, the risk of pregnancy is 20 to 25 for every 100 women each year.
    • Using sponges along with male condoms will reduce the chance of pregnancy even more.
    • Even by using a sponge alone, you are still much less likely to become pregnant than if you did not use any birth control at all.
    Risks of the vaginal sponge includes:
    • Vaginal irritation
    • Allergic reaction
    • Difficulty removing the sponge
    • Toxic shock syndrome (rare)


    Amy JJ, Tripathi V. Contraception for women: an evidence based overview. BMJ. 2009 Aug 7;339.


          A Closer Look

            Self Care

              Tests for Vaginal sponge and spermicides

                Review Date: 2/26/2012

                Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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