Cervical Cap

Key Facts
  • The cervical cap fits around the cervix.
  • Spermicidal gel should always be used with the cervical cap.
  • The cervical cap must be inserted before any sexual activity.
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  • Young men's version of this guide

cervical cap
Cervical cap
Out of 100 *nulliparous people using a cervical cap
Typical use: 14 people become pregnant pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 9 people become pregnant pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Out of 100 *parous people using a cervical cap
Typical use: 29 people become pregnant pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 26 people become pregnant pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1

*Nulliparous is a medical term that means never having given birth to a baby.

*Parous is a medical term that means having given birth to one or more babies.

Individuals using a barrier method, such as a diaphragmcervical cap, or sponge, should be aware of the very low risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Also, women who are allergic to nonoxyl-9 should not use any vaginal barrier method that contains spermicide or works with spermicide.

What is the cervical cap and how does it work?

The cervical cap is a soft dome-shaped cup made of silicone, with a firm rounded rim. The rim fits tightly around the base of your cervix. The cap forms a physical barrier to stop sperm from reaching your uterus but it does not perfectly stop sperm. Spermicide must always be used with the cervical cap to kill or prevent the sperm from moving. When used correctly, the cervical cap and spermicide work to prevent pregnancy. The FemCap is the only brand of cervical cap that is currently available in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

Why do some people choose the cervical cap as their method of birth control?

Some people choose to use the cervical cap to prevent pregnancy because it does not contain hormone medicine. It may be a good option for those with chronic medical conditions or for those who cannot take hormones such as estrogen or progesterone. The cervical cap is reasonably priced and effective right away when placed over the cervix, however, it does take practice to use it, and it must be properly placed in order for it to be effective. The cervical cap is only effective when used with a spermicide.

Does the cervical cap protect against STIs?

No. This is why it is important to use condoms for STI and HIV protection.

Where can I get the cervical cap?

The cervical cap comes in three different sizes: small, medium and large. For this reason, it is best to have a health care provider fit you. Proper fit is most effective in making sure the cap doesn’t move and allow sperm to get past the cervix. A prescription (that specifies the size) is needed to buy the cervical cap, which costs anywhere from $0 to $275. The spermicide can be bought over-the-counter (without a prescription) at pharmacies or retail stores. Spermicide costs between $0.60-$3 per dose, and about $8-$15 per package.

How do I use the cervical cap?

You should insert the cervical cap at least 15 minutes before sexual intercourse or no longer than 6 hours in advance of sexual activity. You should NEVER use the cervical cap when you have your menstrual period.

  1. Before you do anything, empty your bladder (pee) and wash your hands. Use your first two fingers to find your cervix. It feels like the tip of your nose. You may have to squat down, lie down, or stand up with one leg up on a stool or the toilet to find your cervix.
  2. Put a very small amount of spermicide (about 1/4 tsp) in the rim of the cap, and spread it around the outer brim, except for where your finger and thumb are holding the cap. Next turn the cap over and put about 1/2 tsp of spermicide in the groove between the brim and the dome that will face into your vagina.
  3. Squeeze the cap to flatten it, and insert it into your vagina with the bowl facing upward and the long brim entering first. Push it downward and back as far as you can. Press upwards on the strap and the dome of the cap while squatting. Continue this pressure for at least ten seconds. Make sure the cap is pushed all the way in and covers the cervix completely. When it’s correctly inserted, you should not feel the cap as you go about your activities.
Once the cap is in place, the cap lowers the chance of your getting pregnant for up to 48 hours, no matter how many times you have intercourse. Before repeating intercourse within the next 48 hours, check the cap’s position, and insert additional spermicide into your vagina without removing the cap.

How do I remove the cap?

Leave the cap in for at least 6 hours after intercourse. You should not keep it in longer than a total of 48 hours. Before you remove the cap, wash your hands. To remove the cap, it helps to squat. Push your fingertip against the dome of the cap to dimple it. This breaks the suction. Next hook the removal strap with the tip of your finger and gently pull the cap out of your vagina. Use a mild soap and warm water to wash the cap inside and out. Dry the cap really well or let it air dry, and put it back in its container. Keep in a place that is room temperature–not too cold and not too hot.

What if I need more lubrication?

If you need more lubrication, you can use a vaginal lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly). Do not use any oil-based products (such as baby oil, suntan oil, or vegetable oil) since they can break down the material of the cervical cap and make it less effective.

How effective is the cervical cap against pregnancy?

If a person uses the cervical cap every time they have sexual intercourse and follow instructions every time, it is up to 91% effective. This means that if 100 women use the cervical cap all the time and always use it correctly, 9 or more will become pregnant in a year.

Although it’s obvious that the cervical cap is most effective against pregnancy when it is used all the time and always used correctly, perfect use hardly ever happens. If women use the cervical cap but not perfectly, it is only 71-86% effective. This means that if 100 people use the cervical cap, 14-29 people will become pregnant in a year.

Can I douche?

You shouldn’t douche after intercourse (or any other time), because douching can irritate the inside of your vagina and can cause pelvic infections. (If you do decide to douche in spite of this warning, you should wait at least 6 hours after intercourse so that the spermicide does not get washed away.)

Are there any problems with the use of the cervical cap?

Sometimes, the cervical cap may get moved out of place during sexual intercourse. Sometimes, people report having irritation inside their vagina from cervical cap use. Also, some people may be allergic to the material of the cervical cap or the spermicide used with it.

Do I ever need to replace my cervical cap?

Yes. You should get a new cervical cap about once a year. Also, after childbirth or if you feel that the cervical cap does not fit well, you probably need to get a new cap. See your health care provider and discuss it with them.

Can any woman use the cervical cap?

Many people can use a cervical cap, but some can’t. If you have had abnormal Pap tests, known or suspected uterine or cervical cancer, or there is no cap size that fits you, you cannot use the cervical cap. You also cannot use the cervical cap if you have or possibly have uterine or cervical cancer or current infections of the cervix and vagina. Also, if you are allergic to silicone, you should not use the cervical cap.

Should I use any other type of contraception with the cervical cap?

Until you become comfortable with inserting the cervical cap correctly (usually one week to one month), use a backup method of contraception. You should always use the spermicide that is labeled for use with the cervical cap. It is also a good idea to use an external (male) condom when you are using the cervical cap. This will increase the efficacy and lessen your chance of getting an STI. Talk to your health care provider about how to use emergency contraception if the cap gets moved out of place.