The idea of covering the cervix to prevent pregnancy has been around for centuries, and some version of the cervical cap has been around since the late 1800s. The modern-day cervical cap was approved by the FDA in 1988, and various brands have been available since then. Today, FemCap is the only cervical cap available in the U.S.

What Is It?

The cervical cap is a reusable dome-shaped cap that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix during sex. A barrier method of birth control, the cervical cap physically blocks sperm from reaching the egg. The cervical cap is similar to the diaphragm, but it is slightly smaller and made of silicone instead of latex.

How Does It Work?

The cervical cap prevents pregnancy by covering the cervix and blocking sperm from entering the uterus and fallopian tubes during sex. Adding spermicide to the cap before insertion helps thwart off any sperm around the cervix. If sperm cannot enter the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg, pregnancy cannot occur.

How Do I Use it?

You must have a prescription to get a cervical cap. Visit your doctor or healthcare clinic to make sure the cervical cap is the right birth control option for you. Your doctor will also help you determine which size cervical cap you need.

Before inserting the cervical cap, wash your hands and apply spermicide to the dome side of the cap. Insert the cap dome-side down into the vagina, and push towards the cervix. Make sure the cap is positioned correctly and evenly over the cervix. The cervical cap can remain inside the vagina for up to 48 hours, and it must stay in place at least six hours following intercourse. If you have sex more than one time in a 48-hour time period, do not remove the cap—just check the placement of the cap and insert more spermicide into the vagina. After removal, wash the cervical cap with soap and water.

Effectiveness

The cervical cap is 82 to 91 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, depending on how well it is used. (Note: The cap is less effective in women who have previously given vaginal birth.)

Benefits

The cervical cap is a convenient birth control option because it is simple, portable, and easy to insert. Because the cervical cap can be inserted in advance, it does not need to interrupt the sexual experience. Many women prefer the cervical cap because, unlike many hormonal birth control methods, it does not interfere with the body’s natural hormones.

Disadvantages

The cervical cap does not protect against sexually transmitted disease. It is not the most effective form of birth control, and there is more room for error if the cap slips during intercourse or does not fit correctly. In fact, some women can’t be fitted for a cervical cap at all. The cervical cap is slightly less convenient than other barrier methods of birth control because you must have a prescription and medical fitting before use. While there are no serious side effects of the cervical cap, some women experience irritation or discomfort.