A cervical cap is a small cup made of silicone that fits over the cervix (the part
of the uterus
that opens into the vagina). It covers the cervix so sperm can't get in and fertilize
How Does a Cervical Cap Work?
The cervical cap keeps sperm from entering the uterus by covering the cervix. For
added protection, spermicide is put into the cap before inserting the cap snugly over
The cap can be put in several hours before having sex, and must be left in at least
6 hours after sex. The cap should not stay in longer than 24 hours after sex, or for
more than a total of 48 hours. While the cap is in place, its position should be checked
and spermicide should be added every time a couple has sex.
How Well Does a Cervical Cap Work?
Over the course of a year, 14 out of 100 typical couples who use a cervical cap
will have an accidental pregnancy. For women who have had a baby, the cervical cap
is less effective: about 29 out of 100 of typical couples who use the cervical cap
after the woman has had a baby will have an accidental pregnancy.
How well the cervical cap works depends on whether the person remembers to use
it correctly every time.
In order for the cap to work, it also needs to be cared for appropriately. After
each use, the cap must be washed with mild soap and water, rinsed, and air dried,
then stored in its case. Baby powder and oil-based lubricants (such as mineral oil,
petroleum jelly, or baby oil) should not be put on the cap. Other vaginal creams,
such as medicines for yeast infection, can also damage the cap.
Do Cervical Caps Help Prevent STDs?
No. The cervical cap does not protect against STDs.
Couples having sex must always use condoms along with the cervical cap to protect
against these infections.
Abstinence (not having
sex) is the only method that always prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Are There Any Problems With Cervical Caps?
Most people who use the cervical cap have no problems, but possible side effects
Spermicides may irritate the vagina and surrounding skin or cause an allergic
Strong odors, vaginal discharge, or infection may happen if the cervical cap is
left in too long.
The material in the cervical cap may cause an allergic reaction.
The cap may lead to changes in the cervix because of irritation.
Who Is a Cervical Cap Right for?
The cervical cap is not usually recommended for most young women and teens because
it can be very hard to insert correctly. Inserting and removing a cervical cap requires
a girl to reach into her vagina to the cervix with her fingers. It can sometimes also
be knocked out of place during intercourse, which can result in pregnancy. The cervical
cap cannot be used when a girl has her period. It is not recommended for those with
some medical conditions.
Some girls prefer the diaphragm,
which works like the cervical cap but is much easier to use.
Where Are Cervical Caps Available?
A doctor or nurse practitioner must fit a girl for a cervical cap. The doctor or
nurse will find the right size and teach her how to insert and remove the cap.
How Much Does a Cervical Cap Cost?
A cervical cap can cost anywhere from $0 to about $275 for the cap and the office
visit. A cervical cap should be replaced every year. Many health insurance plans cover
these costs, and family planning clinics (such as Planned Parenthood) may charge less.
In addition, the cost of spermicide is about $0.50 to $1.50 per use.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Someone with a cervical cap should call the doctor if she:
might be pregnant
has a change in the smell or color of vaginal discharge
has unexplained fever or chills
has belly or pelvic pain
has pain during sex
has signs of toxic shock syndrome, such as a sunburn-like rash, achiness, fever,
diarrhea, vomiting, or dizziness