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Sponge May Be Less Effective Than Diaphragm in Preventing Pregnancies

The vaginal sponge and diaphragm are popular methods of birth control that provide women a hormone-free option. The sponge is placed in the vagina and contains a chemical to kill sperm (spermicide). The diaphragm sits in vaginal covering the cervix or entrance to the uterus and prevents sperm from entering the uterus. It is also used with a spermicide. The sponge was made as an alternative to the diaphragm. It does not require a prescription or fitting from a physician and therefore may be less of a hassle. But there is some concern that the sponge is not as reliable as the diaphragm.

The Cochrane Library reviewed other past studies and found that the sponge was not quite as effective as the diaphragm.

About the Study

The review compared two previous randomized controlled studies . Both studies studied the pregnancy rate in women using the sponge to women using a diaphragm. A total of 1,689 women completed the studies. In comparison of the groups:
  • 13.3% became pregnant in the sponge group compared to 8.5% in the diaphragm group
  • 42% of the sponge group discontinued at 12 months compared to 35.7% of the diaphragm

The sponge also had higher rates of allergic-type reactions. Both groups reported discomfort with the products.

How Does This Affect You?

There are many types of birth control. The diaphragm and sponge offer a hormone-free option for women however they are not as effective as birth control pills or condoms . Pregnancy rates with the diaphragm and sponge are high. To reduce the chance of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases these methods are best used with a condom. If you decide to use one of these methods, the diaphragm might be more effective than the sponge but it does require a special appointment with your doctor. There are some limitations with this study review including high drop-out rates and no comparison with birth control pills, condoms, or placebo.

Talk to your doctor about birth control options. Discuss your concerns and work with your doctor to create a plan that works best for you. Regardless of the type of contraception, it is important to use it correctly and consistently. Keep in mind that the diaphram and sponge do not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV .

 

RESOURCES:

References:

  • Kuyoh MA, Toroitich-Ruto C, Grimes DA, Schulz KF, Gallo MF, Lopez LM. Sponge versus diaphragm for contraception. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . Issue 4, 2008. Art. No.: CD003172. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003172.

Last reviewed December 2008 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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