The Cervical Cap at a Glance
- A silicone cup inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy
- Safe, effective, and convenient
- Lasts for up to two years
- Costs about $0–$75
Is the Cervical Cap Right for Me?
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about the cervical cap. We hope you find the answers helpful.
What Is the Cervical Cap?
The cervical cap is a silicone cup shaped like a sailor's hat. You insert it into your vagina and over your cervix.
How Does the Cervical Cap Work?
The cervical cap prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm from joining with an egg. In order to be as effective as possible, the cervical cap must be used with spermicide cream or jelly.
The cap works in two ways:
How Effective Is the Cervical Cap?
Effectiveness is an important and common concern when choosing a birth control method. Like all birth control methods, the cervical cap is more effective when you use it correctly. It is more effective for women who have never given birth.
- For women who have never been pregnant or given birth vaginally, 14 out of 100 who use the cervical cap will become pregnant each year.
- For women who have given birth vaginally, 29 out of 100 who use the cervical cap will become pregnant each year.
You can make the cervical cap more effective if you
- Make sure the cervix is covered before each act of intercourse.
- Make sure spermicide is used as recommended.
Your partner can help you make the cap more effective by using a latex condom or pulling out before ejaculation.
Keep in mind that cervical caps do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Use a latex condom to reduce the risk of infection.
How Safe Is the Cervical Cap?
Most women can use the cervical cap safely. But some conditions may make it difficult or impossible for some women to use a cervical cap.
The cervical cap may not be right for you if you
- are allergic to silicone or spermicide
- are not comfortable touching your vagina or vulva
- gave birth in the last 10 weeks
- have breaks or cuts in your vaginal or cervical tissue
- have cancer of the uterus, vagina, or vulva
- have certain physical problems with your uterus or vagina
- have difficulty inserting the cervical cap
- have a history of toxic shock syndrome
- have poor vaginal muscle tone
- have a reproductive tract infection
- recently had an abortion
- recently had surgery on your cervix
You should not use the cervical cap when you have any kind of vaginal bleeding — including during your period. It could increase your risk of toxic shock syndrome.
What Are the Benefits of the Cervical Cap?
Using the cervical cap is safe, simple, and convenient. Women like the cervical cap because
- It can be carried in your pocket or purse.
- It generally cannot be felt by you or your partner.
- It is immediately effective and reversible.
- It has no effect on a woman's natural hormones.
- There is no interruption during sex — it can be inserted up to six hours ahead of time.
- It can be used during breastfeeding.
What Are the Disadvantages of the Cervical Cap?
Many of us like to weigh the benefits against the risks of using a type of birth control. Now that you're familiar with the benefits, let's look at the possible disadvantages.
The cervical cap
- cannot be used during menstruation
- may be difficult for some women to insert
- may be pushed out of place by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions
- must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse
- may need to be replaced with a slightly larger cap after pregnancy
Most spermicides that are used with the cap contain nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 has certain risks. If it is used many times a day, or by people at risk for HIV, it may irritate tissue and increase the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Most women can use the cervical cap with no problems. But some women may experience some side effects.
- Some women who use the cap may develop vaginal irritation. This can be a sign of an allergy to the spermicide. If you have a mild reaction to spermicide, try switching brands to clear up the problem.
- Some women or their partners may feel pain or discomfort when using the cervical cap.
Serious problems are very rare when you use the cervical cap. Check with your health care provider if you
- feel a burning sensation while urinating
- are uncomfortable when the cervical cap is in place
- have irregular spotting and bleeding
- feel irritation or itching in the genital area
- have redness or swelling of the vulva or vagina
- have unusual discharge from the vagina
These symptoms may be a sign of infection or other condition. Most conditions are easily treated.
How Do I Use the Cervical Cap?
With a little practice, the cervical cap is easy to use.
INSERTING A CERVICAL CAP
|Wash your hands with soap and water.|
|Put one-quarter teaspoon of spermicide in the dome of the cervical cap and spread a thin layer on the brim.|
|Put one-half teaspoon in the folded area between the brim and the dome.|
|Find a comfortable position — stand with one foot on a chair, sit on the edge of a chair, lie down, or squat.|
|Put your index and middle fingers in your vagina to locate your cervix. That way, you will know where to place the cap.|
|Separate the labia with one hand and squeeze the rim of the cap together with the other hand. Slide the cervical cap dome-side down into the vagina, with the long brim entering first.|
|Push down toward the anus and then up and onto the cervix. Make sure the cervix is completely covered. (It is easier to insert before you are sexually aroused.)|
How long do I leave the cervical cap in? What if I have sex again?With each act of intercourse, check that the cervical cap is still covering the cervix. You can leave the cap in place and insert more spermicide deep into your vagina.
The cervical cap must stay in place six hours after the last intercourse.
Do not leave the cervical cap in place for more than 48 hours.
REMOVING A CERVICAL CAP
|Wash your hands with soap and water.|
|Squat down. Grip the removal strap and rotate the cervical cap. Push on the dome with your finger to break the suction.|
|Hook your finger under the removal strap and pull the cap out.|
Practice Makes PerfectThe better the cervical cap fits and is inserted, the better it will stay in place — and the better it will protect against pregnancy. Your health care provider will show you how to insert and remove your cervical cap and will then watch you insert and remove it. You will receive a DVD or videotape with your FemCap. It will also show you how to use the cap. Practice inserting and removing the FemCap at home.
Only for You
Your cervical cap should be used by you and only you. Do not share it with friends.
How Do I Take Care of My Cervical Cap?
If you take good care of your cervical cap it may last about two years. Taking care of the cap is simple.
- After you remove the cervical cap, wash it with mild soap and warm water.
- Allow it to air dry.
- Do not use any powder on the cervical cap — it can cause infections.
Be sure to examine the cervical cap regularly. You can look for small holes or weak spots by holding it up to the light. If there is a hole or weak spot, light will shine through the cervical cap. You can also fill the cup of the cervical cap with water and look for leaks.
Stop using your cervical cap if you find that it has holes or weak spots. Talk to your health care provider about getting a replacement. In the meantime, use another form of birth control, such as a condom, female condom, or sponge.
Cervical caps can still be used if they become discolored.
How Do I Get a Cervical Cap? How Much Does a Cervical Cap Cost?
You must see a health care provider to get the cervical cap. Visit a Planned Parenthood health center, a clinic, or a private health care provider for a cervical cap.
When you go to your appointment, your provider will examine you to make sure you do not have a condition that would rule out using a cervical cap. Then your provider will help find the correct size for you and will give you information about using, inserting, and removing the cap. Your health care provider will give you a prescription for the cervical cap.
FemCap is available in three sizes:
- small, for women who have never been pregnant
- medium, for women who have had an abortion or a cesarean delivery
- large, for women who have given birth vaginally
Cervical caps may be purchased at a drugstore or clinic with a prescription. An examination costs from $0 to $200. Cervical caps average from $0 to $75. Spermicide jelly or cream costs about $0 to $17 a kit.
Planned Parenthood works to make health care accessible and affordable. Some health centers are able to charge according to income. Most accept health insurance. If you qualify, Medicaid or other state programs may lower your health care costs.
Call your local Planned Parenthood health center to get specific information on costs.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins