Women's Health Matters

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The sponge

The sponge is a soft, round piece of polyurethane foam containing several different spermicides. It can stay in your vagina up to 30 hours. The sponge:

  • absorbs and traps sperm
  • uses spermicide to kill sperm
  • sits in front of the cervix making it more difficult for sperm to enter

The sponge is 75 to 90 per cent effective when used alone. It may be more effective when combined with another method of birth control such as a condom.

How to use the sponge

You can put the sponge in place up to 24 hours before you have intercourse. Do not use a sponge during your menstrual period. There are different brands of sponges but most have slots or other modifications so you can grip them easily. Read the directions carefully before use.

To insert the sponge:

  1. Put your finger into a slot on the side of the sponge.
  2. Squat or sit on a toilet as you would to insert a tampon.
  3. Slide the sponge into the vagina using one or two fingers.
  4. Push it towards the small of your back.
  5. Leave the sponge in place for at least six hours after sex.
  6. To remove the sponge put your fingers in the vagina and grab one of the slots.
  7. Pull it out and discard the sponge. Once a sponge has been removed it should never be reused!
  8. If you have trouble removing the sponge, push as if you are having a bowel movement. This may move the sponge closer to the opening of the vagina.


  • it can be inserted hours before intercourse so sex can be spontaneous
  • can be used with other forms of birth control
  • you only use it when you need to
  • usually neither partner can feel the sponge during sex
  • you control this method of birth control
  • it does not cause any hormonal changes in your body
  • you can buy it without a prescription at Shoppers Drug Mart (in Canada, the Today brand sponge is sold exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart)
  • it does not need to be fitted


  • not very effective when used alone
  • it may be expensive if used regularly
  • only provides partial protection against sexually transmitted infections
  • you may have some difficulty inserting and removing it
  • cannot be used during your menstrual period
  • spermicide may cause irritation and often taste bad (vaginal irritation can increase your risk of sexually transmitted infections)
  • you must plan ahead before you have sex
  • some women are uncomfortable inserting it into their vagina



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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital