A cervical cap is a small, thimble-shaped cup made of silicone that fits over the cervix (the part of the uterus that opens into the upper part of the vagina). It is considered one of the barrier methods of birth control because it provides a physical barrier between a male's sperm and a female's egg.
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 cervix.
The cap can be inserted up to 6 hours before having sex and must be left in for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 48 hours. While the cap is in place, its position should be checked and spermicide should be added every time a couple has sex. After sex, the cap must be left in place for at least 6 hours.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for removing the cap. Removing a cervical cap involves placing a finger in the vagina to pull the cap out. Because the cap has to be placed properly, women who use one should be comfortable feeling for their cervix deep inside the vagina.
After each time it is used, the cap must be washed with mild soap and water, rinsed, and air dried, then stored in its case. It should not be dusted with baby powder and should never be used with oil-based lubricants such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly, or baby oil. These substances can cause the material in the cap to become brittle and crack. Other vaginal creams, such as medicines for yeast infection, also can damage the cap.
Over the course of 1 year, about 14 out of 100 typical couples who rely on the cervical cap to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental pregnancy. For women who have had a baby, the cervical cap is less effective: about 29 out of 100 typical couples who use the cervical cap after the woman has had a baby will have an accidental pregnancy. Of course, these are average figures and the chance of getting pregnant depends on whether you use this method of birth control correctly and every time you have sex.
In general, how well each type of birth control method works depends on a lot of things. These include whether a person has any health conditions or is taking any medications that might interfere with its use. It also depends on whether the method chosen is convenient — and whether the person remembers to use it correctly every time.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Most females who use the cervical cap have no problems. The few side effects some women do have include:
The cervical cap is not usually recommended for most young women since it can be very difficult to insert correctly. Inserting a cervical cap involves reaching all the way to the cervix with your 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.
A diaphragm works like the cervical cap, but many girls find the diaphragm easier to use.
A doctor must fit a girl for a cervical cap. During a pelvic exam, the doctor will determine which size cap is right for her. The doctor or nurse will then teach her how to insert and remove the cap.
A cervical cap costs about $70 and should be replaced every year. In addition, there is also the cost of the doctor's visit. 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.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|Planned Parenthood Info for Teens This site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has information on relationships and sexual health for teens.|
|National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy This site provides teen pregnancy facts, resources, and prevention tips.|
|Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood offers information on sexually transmitted diseases, birth control methods, and other issues of sexual health.|
|American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) This site offers information on numerous health issues. The women's health section includes readings on pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum care, breast health, menopause, contraception, and more.|
|Gyn Checkups Girls should get their first gynecological checkup between ages 13 and 15. Find out what happens during a yearly gyn visit -- and why most girls don't get internal exams.|
|Do You Need a Pelvic Exam to Get Birth Control? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Female Reproductive System Why do girls get periods? What goes on when a woman gets pregnant? What can go wrong with the female reproductive system? Find the answers to these questions and more in this article for teens.|
|About Birth Control Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to get the basics on birth control.|
|Birth Control Pill Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to learn what birth control pills are, how well they work, and more.|
|Condom Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to find out how condoms work - and how well they protect against pregnancy and STDs.|
|Talking to Your Partner About Condoms Some people - even those who are having sex - are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. Here are some tips for talking about condoms with your partner.|
|Birth Control Methods: How Well Do They Work? Some birth control methods work better than others. This chart compares how well different birth control methods work.|
|Diaphragm Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Find out how the diaphragm works and how effective it is at preventing pregnancy.|
|Emergency Contraception Emergency contraception is used for emergencies only -for example, if a condom breaks or slips off during sex. It is also available to teens who are forced to have unprotected sex.|
|About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. Find out how to protect yourself.|
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