Cervical Cap

1 What is a Cervical Cap?

The cervical cap is a common birth control device that stops sperm from entering the uterus.

The cervical cap is a reusable, deep silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina and fits tightly over the cervix. The cervical cap is held in place by suction and has a strap to facilitate with removal.

The cervical cap is effective at preventing pregnancy only when used in combination with spermicide.

Only one cervical cap, FemCap, has Food and Drug Administration approval in the U.S. It must be filtered and prescribed by a health care provider.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo a cervical cap procedure.

When used with spermicide, the cervical cap helps prevent pregnancy.

Among various benefits, the cervical cap:

  • Permits prompt return to fertility.
  • Can be used while breast-feeding beginning six weeks after delivery.
  • Can be inserted hours before sex and remain in place for up to 48 hours.
  • Does not require a partner's cooperation.
  • Poses few, if any side effects.

The cervical cap is not an appropriate device for everyone.

Your health care provider may discourage use of the cervical cap for the following reasons:

  • If you are allergic to spermicide or silicone.
  • If you are at a high risk or have HIV/AIDS.
  • If you are at a high risk of pregnancy, you are younger than 30, you have sex three or more times a week, you have had a previous contraceptive failure with vaginal barrier methods or you are not likely to consistently use the cervical cap.
  • If you have vaginal or cervical abnormalities that interfere with the fit, placement or retention of the cervical cap.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding or a vaginal, cervical or pelvic injury or infection.
  • If you have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease; toxic shock syndrome; uterine, cervical or vaginal cancers; uterine tract infections; or vaginal or cervical tissue tears.
  • If you recently gave birth or had a miscarriage or an abortion.

3 Potential Risks

Along with undergoing a cervical cap procedure comes potential risks.

The cervical cap does not prevent the transmission of any sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  

An estimated 10 out of 100 women who've never been pregnant or given birth vaginally will become pregnant during a year of typical use of the cervical cap. An estimated 21 out of 100 women who've given birth vaginally will become pregnant during a year of typical use.

This difference is due to the fact that the vagina and cervix are stretched by giving birth vaginally, which means the cervical cap may not fit as well.

Inconsistent or incorrect use or an improper fit of the cervical cap increases your risk of pregnancy.

For example, you may get pregnant when using the cervical cap if:

  • The cervical cap becomes dislodged from the cervix during sex.
  • You don't use spermicide.
  • You remove the cervical cap within six hours after having sex.
  • Spermicide applied to the cervical cap may damage the cells lining the vagina, causing:
    • A potentially increased risk of contracting STIs
    • Urinary tract or vaginal infection
    • Vaginal irritation

Contact your health care provider if:

  • The cervical cap slips out of place when you walk, sneeze, cough or strain.
  • You have signs or symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, such as sudden high fever, diarrhea, dizziness, vomiting, fainting or a rash that looks like sunburn.
  • You notice blood on the cervical cap after you remove it that isn't related to your period starting.
  • You notice a foul odor when the cervical cap is in place or after you remove it.
  • You or your partner experiences discomfort or pain during or following use of the cervical cap.
  • Your partner has abrasions on his penis following the use of the cervical cap during sex.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In preparing for your cervical cap procedure, you must follow your doctor’s orders. 

The cervical cap comes in various sizes. Your health care provider will fit you for the cervical cap and will also demonstrate how to insert and remove the cap. He or she may confirm that the cervical cap is in the correct position by doing a pelvic exam.

It may be necessary to have your cervical cap refitted after childbirth or if your weight fluctuates by ten pounds or more (4.5 kilograms).

Always use the cervical cap with spermicide. It is also important to make sure you check your cervical cap for wear, holes or discoloration and replace your cervical cap each year, even if it appears to be fine.

Do not wear the cervical cap during any kind of vaginal bleeding, including your period, this increases the risks of toxic shock syndrome.

Before using the cervical cap for the first time, you must practice inserting it the cap and check its placement. Use a backup method of contraception, such as a male condom when you use the cervical cap for the first time.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your cervical cap.

In order to use a cervical cap:

  • Check the position of your cervix before inserting the cervical cap: To find the position of your cervix, insert your finger deep into your vagina. The cervix feels like the tip of your nose. Its position will vary according to the time of the month and your body position.
  • Apply spermicide: Fill the cap's bowl with about 1/4 teaspoon of spermicide. Spread a thin layer of spermicide on the brim of the cervical cap that faces the cervix. Place 1/2 teaspoon of spermicide in the groove between the rim and dome of the cervical cap.
  • Insert the cervical: Insert your cervical cap into your vagina before sexual arousal to make sure that the cervical cap is placed properly.Find a comfortable position such as squatting or with one leg raised on a toilet seat. Separate your labia with one hand and with the other, hold the cervical cap with the bowl facing upward and squeeze the rim of the cervical cap between your thumb and index finger. You can then slide the cervical cap into your vagina making sure the taller brim on the cervical cap enters your vagina first.Always check the cervical cap's position before sex. Squat, bear down, insert your finger into your vagina and press upward on the dome to make sure the cervix is covered. If the cervix is not being covered completely, either push it onto the cervix or remove and reinsert it.
  • Gently remove the cervical cap from your vagina: After sex, leave the cervical cap in place for at least a period of six hours and up to two days. To remove the cervical cap, squat, bear down and rotate the cap.Relax your muscles and push up on the dome of the cervical cap to break the seal. Grasp the removal strap and gently proceed to pull. Be careful not to scratch your vagina with your fingernails.After the cervical cap is removed, wash it with mild soap and warm water and let it air-dry. Store the cervical cap in its provided container.

6 Procedure Results

If you do not understand your cervical cap results, consult with your doctor.

The cervix is covered to prevent the entry of sperm into the uterus and you are ready to engage in sex.