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The Sponge

The sponge is a small polyurethane sponge containing nonoxynol-9 spermicide that is put deep into the vagina to cover the cervix.

How does the sponge work?

The sponge works in 3 ways:

  • As a barrier to stop sperm from entering the uterus.
  • It absorbs the sperm.
  • It kills the sperm with spermicide.

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How effective is it?

  • The sponge is between 80 - 91% effective against pregnancy.
  • It is more effective when used with a condom and less effective in women who have had children.
  • The sponge provides no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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How do I use it?

  • Insert the sponge anytime up to 6 hours before intercourse.
  • After intercourse, the sponge must be left in place for at least 6 hours before it is removed and thrown away.
  • It can be left in for up to 12 hours after being inserted.

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Where can I get the sponge?

  • The sponge is "one size fits all", and is sold at drug stores without a prescription in Canada.

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Who can use it?

  • Any woman who is not sensitive to spermicidal agents can use the sponge.
  • The sponge cannot be used during a menstrual period.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages to using the sponge?


  • Allows the female to be in control of her reproductive health.
  • Does not involve the use of hormones.
  • Available without a prescription.
  • Suitable for people with latex allergies - made of polyurethane.


  • Some women are sensitive or allergic to the polyurethane or spermicides that are in the sponge.
  • Use of the sponge may cause vaginal or urinary tract infections. 
  • There is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome if the sponge is not used properly.

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