Cervical Cap

A Cervical Cover, also called a Cervical Cap is a device you insert into your vagina that fits over your cervix. Suction keeps it in place. It blocks sperm from entering the uterus and prevents fertilization. After intercourse, it should be left in place for 8 hours. Put spermicidal jellies or creams that kill sperm into the Cap before inserting it into your body. Cervical caps/covers are 84-91% effective at preventing pregnancy for women who have never given birth. They are 68-74% effective for women who have given birth. Femcap is the only cervical cap currently available in the USA though others have been sold in the past.

Use

The effectiveness of a cervical cap depends on its fit. Cervical caps come in different sizes to fit different women. A fitting is done in a clinic. When you are first fitted, your medical practitioner will show you how to insert and remove it. A cervical cap can stay in place for 48 hours so that you can put it in far in advance of sexual activity. Practice inserting and removing your cervical cap before sex play with a partner. It becomes easy with practice. Cervical caps are not recommended during menstrual periods.

Insertion:

Prepare the cervical cap by filling it about one-third full with spermicide. Be careful not to spread spermicide on the rim. Too much spermicide may cause the cap to slip off your cervix. If you are having oral sex, you can wipe excess spermicide off your vulva to prevent one from tasting it.

To insert the cap, find a comfortable position. Try standing with one foot raised on a chair, sitting with knees apart, or lying down with knees bent. Use one hand to separate your lips. The other hand can squeeze the rim of your cervical cap and insert the cap far inside your vagina. Use a finger to push it over your cervix. You can run your finger around the cap’s rim to make sure the cervix is covered. Test the suction of your cap by gently pinching and pulling on it. You should feel some resistance.

Removal:

After intercourse, wait eight hours before removing your cervical cap. You can use one finger to release the suction at the rim then pull the cap out of your vagina. If you have trouble reaching the cap, try squatting and bearing down.

Awareness:

The highest risk of pregnancy occurs during the first few months women use cervical caps. To increase effectiveness during these months and every time you have a new partner, check the position of your cap before and after intercourse to make sure that it stays in place. If the cap moved during intercourse, consider using Emergency Contraception.

Care

Do not douche or use oil-based lubricants with the cervical cap in place. Douching weakens the spermicide; Oil-based lubricants (like Vaseline or edible oils) may damage the cap. After use, wash the cap with mild soap and warm water. You can prevent odors by soaking your cervical cap in diluted lemon juice and drying your cap between uses. To make sure the cap stays effective, regularly check the condition of the cap. You can hold it up to the light or fill it with water to check for holes.

Refitting

Giving birth or having an abortion can affect the way a cervical cap fits. After a birth or an abortion, it is recommended that women have a medical provider check the fit of their cervical cap.

Your Health

Cervical caps are not recommended for women who have had Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Side Effects

Some women may experience allergic reactions to the rubber of the cervical cap or the spermicide they use. If this happens and your spermicide has nonoxynol-9, try a spermicide without this chemical

Your Cervix

The cervix is the opening to the uterus where menstrual blood, babies, and sperm pass. It is also the opening through which an abortion is performed. Barrier methods of birth control, including the diaphragm, female condom, and cervical cap, work by covering the cervix and preventing sperm from entering the uterus. Hormonal birth control affects the cervical mucus making the opening more resistant to sperm.

Women’s bodies naturally produce hormones that change the cervix during a menstrual cycle. You can learn more about your cervix using a speculum to perform a self-exam.

Q&A

Why is it 60-74% effective on women with children compared to 80-91% for women who have never given birth?

The cervical cap needs to hug the cervix tightly. Women who have had vaginal births have cervixes that opened wide to pass the baby through. The cervix may also have been cut on the passage, possibly leaving some scar tissue. When the cervix shrinks back, it can be shaped a bit uneven and rarely returns to its small, button-shaped unpregnant/undelivered size. Women who have delivered babies vaginally will have all varieties of different sizes and shapes to their cervixes. A proper fit, however, makes all the difference in how effective the cap will be. It really comes down to good fit and lots of practice by each woman to place it properly.

Why must a cervical cap must stay in place for 8 hours after intercourse if male sperm lasts up to 5 days in women´s bodies?

Eight (8) hours is usually sufficient time for the spermicide, which is used with the cap, to deactivate/kill the sperm. The spermicide works primarily through its slightly acid ingredients. Sperm cannot live in an acid environment, which is what our vaginas are like when we are not ovulating. When we ovulate, the secretions in the vagina lose their acidity and keep the sperm alive to travel up the reproductive system. Sperm will live a long time – 5 days or so – under the very best of conditions, like in an alkaline rather than in an acid environment. However, as long as the cap is properly covering the cervix firmly and there is adequate spermicidal jelly, the sperm should not survive.

Advantages

  • Can be inserted many hours before sex play.
  • Easy to carry around, comfortable.
  • Does not alter the menstrual cycle.
  • Does not affect future fertility.
  • May help you better know your body.

Disadvantages

  • Does not protect against HIV/AIDS.
  • Requires a fitting in a clinic.
  • Not able to fit with all women.
  • Can be difficult to insert or remove.
  • Can be dislodged during intercourse.

More Info

Updated May 2012