a freaky friday for birth control
the today sponge is making a comeback after being yanked from the market over a decade ago due to problems with the manufacturer. at the same time, the cervical cap has disappeared after their U.S. distributor took a hike.
personally, i think both methods are less than perfect, and not just in their disturbingly low typical use efficacy rates (72-82% for the today sponge, 68-84% for the cervical cap). Neither offers any protection against sexually transmitted infection. And both rely upon nonoxynol-9 spermicide.
we used to think non-9 was not just a spermicide (renders sperm helpless), but a possible microbicide (ability to kill bacteria and viruses and/or prevent infection). the public health community was shocked and saddened when it was discovered that non-9 actually INCREASES the risk of many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. this was due to the irritation caused by the harsh chemical (very similar to lysol or laundry detergent). consequently, the world health organization (WHO) passed a recommendation that spermicide not be used by those who have "frequent intercourse" (defined as more than three times a week) and those at risk for HIV infection, and NEVER be used for anal sex.
on the plus side, the today sponge uses a much smaller amount of spermicide than any prescription barrier method (diaphragms, FemCap, Lea's Shield, and the now dead cervical cap). and the spermicide is already in the sponge so no application is necessary.
although condoms (external, internal, latex, and polyurethane) will forever hold my heart as the end-all-be-all of over-the-counter contraception, i suppose the drug stores can make room for this new option that does not require a prescription and does not require participation of a woman's penis-wielding partner.