Good news! The days of hoarding your dwindling supply of Today Sponges are over. Though it’s still worthwhile to test whether a prospective lover is “spongeworthy,” as Elaine did on Seinfeld, the sponge has bounced back and is available after an 11-year hiatus.
The once popular over-the-counter form of birth control won re-approval for marketing from the FDA this April. Though the sponge’s safety and effectiveness were never in question, the previous manufacturer, took the sponge off the market in 1994 when they decided not to upgrade their plant because of cost. Allendale Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to the Today Sponge in 1998 and recommenced distribution this summer.
Between 1983 and 1994, when the Today Sponge was previously offered in the U.S., roughly 250 million sponges were sold. The soft, disk-shaped foam device is coated with sperm-killing nonoxynol-9 and prevents pregnancy by killing sperm in the vagina and blocking the cervix to hinder the progress of sperm into the uterus.
The sponge is not messy like creams or foams, does not have to be fitted by a doctor like a diaphragm, and contains no hormones like the pill. It has few side effects and can be used at a moment’s notice. However, it needs to be moistened with water before it is inserted. Protection begins once you position the sponge. A ribbon loop aids in removing the device, which must remain in place for at least six hours after the last intercourse—the time it takes the spermicide to kill sperm in the vaginal canal.
As with most contraceptives, there are shortcomings. The sponge has a success rate of about 90 percent. Also, removing the device can be tricky—there is a toll-free number for users who find the entire sponge or parts of it stuck inside them. Another drawback is that the sponge offers no protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Though the sponge has its faults, its return is being celebrated by women who cannot tolerate hormonal contraceptives, are sensitive to latex, or choose not to use these methods. Moreover, it provides women with another choice in birth control—good news, indeed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 11, 2005