What is a cervical cap?

A cervical cap, or contraceptive cap, is a small rubber or silicone cup you insert into your vagina before sexual intercourse to help prevent pregnancy. Cervical caps prevent sperm from entering your uterus. They create a barrier covering your cervix, the opening to your uterus.

Many women add spermicide to the cervical cap to kill any sperm that might get around the cap. Spermicide adds a chemical barrier to the physical barrier formed by the cap.

How effective is a cervical cap?

Out of every 100 women who use cervical caps each year, an estimated 14 to 29 women may become pregnant. Cervical caps are most effective when used with spermicide.

How do I know which cervical cap to use?

Because cervical cups come in different sizes, it is important to be correctly fitted for your cap by your doctor.

How do I use a cervical cap?

Before each use of a cervical cap, check the cap for any holes or other damage that may allow sperm to enter your uterus. If your cervical cap is damaged, do not use it.

To use a cervical cap:

  • Empty your bladder
  • Apply spermicide to the cervical cap
  • Insert the cervical cap into your vagina as your doctor instructed. Be sure the cap covers your cervix. You may check the cervical cap’s placement by inserting a finger into your vagina to check its positioning.

You may insert the cervical cap up to six hours before sexual intercourse.

How long should I leave the cervical cap in?

You need to leave your cervical cap in place for at least six hours after the last act of intercourse. Cervical caps should not be left in place longer than 48 hours total.

What are the benefits of cervical cap?

Cervical caps are small, affordable, and reusable. You may use a cervical cap for repeated sexual intercourse within a 48-hour period. Most partners do not feel cervical caps when they are in place.

What are the disadvantages of cervical cap?

To be effective, cervical caps require consistent and proper use with each sexual encounter. It is possible for cervical caps to become dislodged during sexual intercourse, increasing your chances for pregnancy. If you cannot remove your cervical cap, your doctor may need to remove it.

Unlike some other forms of birth control, cervical cups do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Your doctor must fit you for a cervical cap and provide a prescription so you can purchase a cup. Your doctor may need to refit your cervical cap after:

  • Any pregnancy with a vaginal birth
  • Abortion or miscarriage
  • Pelvic surgery

What are the risks of using a cervical cap?

Using a cervical cap may increase your risk of developing certain medical conditions, including:

When should I call my doctor?

If you notice any pelvic or abdominal pain, foul-smelling urine or vaginal discharge, or other unusual symptoms after using a cervical cap, contact your doctor for an evaluation.

You should also contact your doctor immediately if you are unable to remove the cervical cap yourself.

Who should not use cervical caps?

Certain women should not use cervical caps, including those with a history of:

  • Certain types of Pap test abnormalities
  • Cervical inflammation (cervicitis)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Reproductive system infections
  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

You should not use a cervical cap if your cervix is abnormally shaped or if you recently had surgery on your cervix or vagina.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/11/2018.

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