Toxic Shock Syndrome and Barrier Contraceptives

Amongst the many horror stories that are told about things that can go wrong when using certain contraceptives there are some that actually have a basis in reality. One particular subject that it is good to understand about is the connection between some contraceptives and toxic shock syndrome.

Some women may recall when tampons and toxic shock syndrome were in the news back in the late 1970s to early 1980s.

This problem was brought under control, but the fact is that toxic shock syndrome, referred to as TSS, still exists and although most often it is related to injuries or surgery where something goes wrong it can also be related to the use of both the diaphragm and the contraceptive sponge.

Causes of TSS

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by bacteria; either the Staphylococcus aureus or the Streptococcus pyogenes though this second one is much rarer. The problem is when these bacteria make toxins that affect the entire body causing the immune system to be unable to fight back.

In the United States fifty percent of all toxic shock cases have something to do with a woman who is having her period at the time. Some have to do with injuries that are not healing well, others with recent surgery and women who use the barrier methods of contraception. This is not something that passes between people. The bacteria begin to grow and then it produces these dangerous toxins.


The symptoms come on suddenly not unlike those of a really bad flu. The woman may suffer from chills, diarrhea, she may throw up, have muscles that feel achy or have a rash and fever. She may begin to feel lightheaded, suffer from headaches or have her breathing become difficult. A woman with these signs should see her health care provider immediately.

Although tampons, contraceptive sponges and diaphragms are all tied to TSS, they do not cause it. They seem to be more of a conduit between the bacteria and a womans body. Some things that can help prevent this problem deal with how to treat the contraceptive barrier devices that get used.


A woman should not leave the diaphragm or contraceptive sponge in longer than twenty four hours. Many physicians suggest that twelve to eighteen hours should be the outer limit.

Make sure once it is taken out that it is washed thoroughly, dried and put back in to its little box. This ensures that it says clean, that nothing, including dust, can get on it before it is used again.

Be certain to wash your hands before you insert these contraceptive devices. Unwashed hands only serve to be a potential health hazard.

This is not to say that using barrier contraceptive devices are dangerous just that you must see to it that they are given the right care if you are going to use them.

This is all common sense. Keeping clean and free of dust and dirties logical. If a woman has few of the signs she must see to her physician immediately. In two percent of cases TSS can be fatal. Cleanliness will stop that from being you.