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Cervical Cap

November 18, 2010

The Female Reproductive Sysytem

During a normal monthly cycle, one of a woman’s ovaries will produce a mature egg that will travel through the fallopian tube into the uterus. If sperm fertilizes this egg, the egg will attach itself to the uterine wall and begin developing into a fetus.

Fertilization of the egg

Barrier methods of birth control prevent pregnancy by making sure that sperm and egg do not meet.

What is a Cervical Cap?

A cervical cap is a latex, thimble-shaped device that is inserted into the vagina and fits snugly over the cervix. Suction keeps the cap in place. A cervical cap provides a barrier to block sperm from entering the uterus and prevents fertilization. After intercourse, it should be left in place for 8 hours. A cervical cap is used with spermicidal jellies or creams that kill sperm. As birth control, cervical caps are 84-91% effective for women who have never given birth. They are 68-74% effective for women who have given birth.

The Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is made of soft rubber and is designed to fit completely over the cervix. Spermicide is placed on the outer rim of the cap and in the portion of the cap facing the vagina. The cervical cap prevents pregnancy by blocking the sperm from entering the uterus.


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 for the cap, your medical practitioner will show you how to insert the cap. A cervical cap can stay in place for 48 hours. Practice inserting and removing your cervical cap before sex play with a partner. It can be awkward at first, but becomes easy with practice. Cervical caps are not recommended during menstrual periods.


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. Spermicides can have a bad taste.

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.


After intercourse, wait 8 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.


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.


Do not douche or use oil-based lubricants with the cervical cap in place. Douching weakens the spermicide and 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.


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.


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.


  • 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.


  • Does not protect against HIV/AIDS.
  • Requires a fitting in a clinic.
  • Some women cannot be fitted.
  • Can be difficult to insert or remove.
  • Can be dislodged during intercourse.
  • Possible allergic reactions.
Other: Cervical caps may offer some limited protection against HIV/AIDS and against some, but not all, sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Learn more at: Questions and Answers about Cervical Caps
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