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Cervical Cap for Birth Control

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Cervical Cap for Birth Control

Overview

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.

For the cap to work well, you need to use it every time you have vaginal sex. You must use spermicide with it.

To use the cap, apply spermicide to it and place it inside your vagina so that it covers the cervix. (The cervix is the opening of the uterus.) You can place the cap up to 40 hours before you have vaginal sex. If you have sex more than one time when the cap is in place, apply more spermicide to your vagina each time. 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.

You need a prescription from your doctor for a cap. Your doctor can help fit you for the right size. A cap lasts for 1 year.

How well does it work?

How well the cap works depends on whether you have ever had a baby by a vaginal birth.

  • If you have had a vaginal childbirth:
    • When the cap is used exactly as directed, it is about 74% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 26 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed,it is about 68% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 32 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy.footnote 1
  • If you have not had a vaginal childbirth:
    • When the cap is used exactly as directed, it is about 91% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 9 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy. When it is not used exactly as directed,it is about 84% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that about 16 out of 100 people who use it will have an unplanned pregnancy.footnote 1

If you use an external (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. Your doctor 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.

References

Citations

  1. Trussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 20th ed., pp. 45–74. Atlanta: Ardent Media.

Credits

Current as of: April 19, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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