What: Remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine freaked out when she heard her beloved Today Sponge was going off the market? She'd be happy to know that it has recently returned. It's still the same product since 1983 but with new blue packaging that looks more sea sponge than dishwashing sponge.
Failure rate*: It is 9 to 12 percent for those who have never given birth and 20 to 24 percent for those who have. The drop in effectiveness for mothers isn't completely understood, says David Mayer, founder of Mayer Laboratories (the makers of the Today Sponge), but the theory is that giving birth can stretch the opening between the vaginal canal and the uterus, possibly compromising the fit of the sponge. Mayer adds that a large international clinical study (posted on the product website) showed lower rates of pregnancy for women who have had children—equal to the rate for women with no children.
Who: Younger women who have never been pregnant and who are comfortable enough with their anatomy to make sure the sponge fully covers the cervix; couples looking for a "next step" birth control after condoms; women who are uncertain about hormonal contraceptives.
- It can be inserted up to 24 hours before having sex.
- Once it's in place, it's working, and it can't be felt by a woman or her partner.
- It's safe for most women, with almost no side effects.
- When used with condoms, it provides extra reassurance.
- The effectiveness data isn't as reassuring as other methods.
- It needs to remain in place for at least six hours after sex.
- Insertion and removal take practice.