Vaginal sponge and spermicides
Spermicides and vaginal sponges are two birth control methods used during sex to prevent pregnancy. Over-the-counter means that they can be purchased by anyone without a prescription.
Birth control - over the counter; Contraceptives - over the counter
Spermicides and vaginal sponges do not work as well at preventing pregnancy 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 from moving. They come as gels, foams, creams, or suppositories. They are inserted into the vagina before sex. You can buy spermicides in most drug and grocery stores.
- Spermicides alone do not work very well. About 15 pregnancies occur out of every 100 women who correctly use this 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.
- Using spermicides 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 deep into 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 may increase 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 it over 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.
- 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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
8 Easy Tips for Organizing Your Medicine Cabinet
Letting Go of Your Teen: Why It's Important
Low Testosterone, High Risk of Diabetes?
5 Beat-the-Heat Beauty Secrets
Nutrition Bars: Healthy or Hype?
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.