The cervical cap is used to prevent pregnancy. It's called a barrier method of birth control. This is because it keeps the sperm and eggs apart.
The cap fits inside your vagina and covers the cervix. The cervix is the opening of the uterus. You can put the cap in anytime up to 6 hours before you have sex. After sex, you must leave it in your vagina for at least 6 hours. After it has been in your vagina for 6 hours, you can take it out anytime up to 48 hours later.
Your doctor can fit you for a cervical cap. Then he or she will write a prescription for the right size cap. A cap lasts for 1 year.
For the cap to work well, you need to use it every time you have sexual intercourse. You must use spermicide with it.
How well does it work?
How well the cap works depends on whether you've had a baby by a vaginal birth.
- For women who have not had a vaginal birth:
- In the first year of use, when the cap is used exactly as directed, 9 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed, 16 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy.
- For women who have had a vaginal birth:
- In the first year of use, when the cap is used exactly as directed, 26 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed, 32 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy.
If you use a male condom with the cap, you can lower your chances of getting pregnant.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any health problems you have or medicines you take. He or she can help you choose the birth control method that is right for you.
What are the advantages of using a cervical cap for birth control?
- The cervical cap doesn't use hormones. So you can use it if you don't want to take hormones. You can also use it if you can't take hormones because of other health problems.
- It is safe to use while breastfeeding.
- It doesn't affect your menstrual cycle.
- It costs less than hormonal types of birth control.
- You put it in up to 6 hours before intercourse. You don't have to interrupt sex.
What are the disadvantages of using a cervical cap for birth control?
- The cervical cap doesn't prevent pregnancy as well as IUDs or hormonal forms of birth control.
- It prevents pregnancy only if you use it every time you have intercourse.
- The cap doesn't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These include herpes and HIV. If you're not sure if your sex partner might have an STI, you can protect yourself with a condom.
- You may need more than one doctor visit to fit and check the cap.
- You may not be comfortable putting the cap in each time you have intercourse.
- You may find that the cap is hard to put in and take out. You also can't use it during your period.
- You need to use spermicide with the cap. Spermicide may cause an allergic reaction. It can cause itching or sores in the vagina or on the penis.
If you think you used the cap incorrectly, you can use emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is an IUD (inserted by a doctor). You can also get emergency contraceptive pills. You can get them with a prescription from your doctor or without a prescription at most drugstores.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine