The past few decades have seen a lot of contraceptive products coming up for males and females. We all know that birth control pills and condoms are used worldwide to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Here, we will take a comprehensive look at a lesser-known birth control option called the ‘birth control sponge’.
So, what is the birth control sponge?
It is a round device with an indentation in the centre. It has a polyurethane coating consisting of spermicide. The woman must insert the sponge into their vagina before penetrative sex to prevent the sperm from entering their uterus and fertilising an egg.
You know what a birth control sponge is, now let’s look at how to use it:
- Dip the sponge into two tablespoons of water and squeeze it gently to activate the spermicide within.
- Hold the sponge with the indentation facing up and the strap down.
- Squat, as it is an excellent angle to insert the sponge.
- Fold the sides of the birth control sponge up.
- Using one or two fingers, slide the sponge gently into your vagina as far as it can go.
- Use one finger to check that the sponge covers your entire cervix.
There are two duration related pieces of information that you must remember- keep the sponge inside for six hours to prevent unplanned pregnancy and do not leave it in for more than 30 hours. You can insert it even 24 hours before you have penetrative sex. When it’s time to remove the sponge, gently pull at the strap. If you have difficulty, wait for a few minutes, and try again, but avoid being rough as it may irritate your skin. Once the sponge is out, check if it is intact and not torn. Make sure no piece of the sponge has broken and lodged into your vagina. If you notice or suspect that the sponge wasn’t correctly placed, you can take an emergency pill like the Unwanted-72 within 72 hours of vaginal sex.
Next, let’s see what makes the birth control sponge a good alternative for many individuals:
- You can get it from any chemist; you do not need a prescription for it.
- It isn’t hormonal, so it has negligible side effects.
- It doesn’t affect breastfeeding.
- You can have sex multiple times within that 24-hour window without worrying about replacing the sponge.
- You can use it to suit your preference as you don’t require a partner to help you insert it or buy it.
Just like every other contraception method, this one also has some risks involved, such as:
- It can be challenging to remove from the vagina.
- It doesn’t protect you from an STD.
- Some users can have a burning feeling even an allergic reaction.
- Spermicide can irritate your genitals which can raise your risk of contracting HIV.
- There is a significant risk of toxic shock syndrome if you leave the sponge in for too long.
The last thing to note is that the birth control sponge is 86% effective. If you are looking for something with a higher efficacy rate, you can consider the male condom slightly more effective at 87% or a regular birth control pill, which is 93% effective. One example of such a pill is the Unwanted-21, where you take one pill each day for 21 days, followed by your period, and then start a new pack of pills. Make sure you consult your gynaecologist if you have any doubts about using the birth control sponge to ensure that it is the best alternative for you.