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revised Wednesday April 22 2009
healthy sexuality
Birth Control Methods

Foams, Jellies & the Sponge

Foams, jellies and sponges are all barrier methods of birth control that contain spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm. While foams and jellies will dissolve in your vagina, you must physically remove a vaginal sponge.

Spermicidal foams, jellies, and vaginal sponges prevent pregnancy by killing sperm and blocking the opening of the cervix.  These methods stop sperm from entering the uterus and reaching an egg.

You can buy foams, jellies and the sponge from a drugstore or at some clinics without a prescription.

How to Use Foams, Jellies and The Sponge

Be sure to carefully read the specific instructions included with the product you choose.

Using Foams and Jellies

Using Foams and JelliesUsing the applicator provided, insert the foam or jelly into your vagina before you start having intercourse.

Foams and jellies start working immediately but are effective for only 30 minutes. So if 30 minutes passes before you start having sex or the condom breaks you must re-insert another application of jelly or foam.

One application won’t guard against pregnancy for repeated acts of intercourse, so be sure to insert spermicide every time you have sex. Remember, you must insert spermicide before you start having intercourse.

Using a Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge

Using a Vaginal Contraceptive SpongeA vaginal contraceptive sponge can stay in your vagina for up to 12 hours.

You can have vaginal sex as often as you’d like in the first 6 hours after inserting the sponge. However, to be fully effective the sponge must be left in your vagina for 6 hours after you last had intercourse.

(For example, if you last had intercourse at 2:00 in the afternoon, you wouldn’t remove the sponge until after 8:00 that evening.)



Used alone, foams, jellies and the vaginal sponge are about 71% effective in preventing pregnancy. This means that 29 out of 100 women using only these methods for one year will get pregnant.*

Using spermicides with another contraceptive method such as condoms will provide you better protection against pregnancy. Out of 100 women who use spermicide and condoms together, 98 will not get pregnant.*

Condoms also help in preventing sexually transmitted infections.

* source: The Mayo Clinic


Advantages & Disadvantages



  • They start working immediately.
  • They don't cause any changes to your body.
  • You don't need to see a doctor to get them.
  • You use them only when you need to.
  • They rarely causes vaginal or penile irritation.
  • Some might lubricate your vagina during sexual intercourse.
  • Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
  • It might irritate your vaginal area or cause a yeast infection.
  • You have to put them in every time you have sex.
  • They might taste bad.
  • They're messy.
  • You need to feel comfortable putting them in your vagina.
  • You can't use them if you or your partner is allergic to spermicide.

Cautions & Things to Consider

Foams, Jellies and The Sponge Doesn’t Protect Against STIs

Foams, jellies or the sponge won’t protect you or your partner from STIs including HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B. Using any one these methods and condoms at the same time can reduce your chances of getting an STI, including HIV/AIDS.

Don’t Reuse Sponges

Once a sponge is removed it loses its effectiveness. It’s also unhygienic to re-use a sponge.

Using the Sponge During Your Period

There is small but significant increase in the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome if you leave a sponge in during your period. Don’t use the sponge while you’re menstruating.

Douching Will Reduce Effectiveness

It's not recommended to be used during your period.
Don’t douche until at least 6 hours have passed since you had sex. (Douching isn’t recommended at any time, but can especially reduce the effectiveness of a spermicide by prematurely washing it out.)

Timing Is Important!

Different brands require different times to be inserted, so be sure to carefully read the specific instructions included with the product you choose.

Side Effects

Rare side effects may include:

  • itching
  • burning when you urinate
  • a slight inflammation of the vagina
  • pain
  • increased white discharge

Stop using spermicidal foams, jellies or sponges if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Contact your doctor if any pain or irritation continues.


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Revised: Wednesday April 22 2009

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