A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. The “cap” part of the name is pretty dead on—the thing looks like a little rubber sailor’s hat, maybe an inch and a half wide and one inch high. There’s only one brand of cervical cap available in the U.S. today, and it’s jauntily named the FemCap. One super important thing to remember: You need to use a cervical cap with spermicide for it to be most effective.

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You haven’t had a baby yet

Cervical caps are more effective if you haven’t given birth.

You wouldn’t mind getting pregnant

The “typical use” failure rate for the cervical cap can range from 14-29%, which is pretty high. So if getting pregnant would be disastrous for you, think about another method.

Comfortable with your body

If you’re not okay with putting your fingers inside yourself, a cervical cap probably isn’t for you. It’s a bit like putting in a tampon, though: If you can do that, you can probably manage the cap.

It takes discipline

You’ve got to remember to insert your cervical cap each and every time you have sex, so it takes a bit of self-discipline and planning. But at least you can carry it with you if you want.

You don’t have sex often

Inserting a cervical cap can take a while, so it’s not exactly ideal if you’re doing it all the time. That said, if your style is more “only on the weekends,” you can put the cap in once and leave it in place for up to 48 hours.

Allergy issues

If you’re allergic to silicone or spermicide, you shouldn’t use a cervical cap.

The pregnancy question

You’ll be able to get pregnant as soon as you stop using the cervical cap. So protect yourself with another method right away if you’re not ready to get pregnant.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with the cervical cap.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost. (Note that the cost of spermicide probably won’t be covered.) BTW, the open enrollment period for 2017 is over, but you may still be able to get health coverage. Find out if you could be eligible for special enrollment.

Manufacturers recommend that you replace your cervical cap once a year, so if you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay for this method annually.


To see how this translates over a year, here’s what it would cost to pay for a cervical cap month-to-month at full price:

  • Cost per month over one year: $0 - $24

  • Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low cost birth control (most do).

A cervical cap can be inserted hours before sex and should be in before you’re turned on, so it won’t get in the way of the moment. But you have to be sure to leave it in for six hours after you have sex. If you’re going to have sex again that day, leave the cervical cap in place and insert more spermicide way up in your vagina (Gynol II comes with an applicator that makes this easier, but any kind of contraceptive gel or spermicide will do except for the film or insert/suppository types). And don’t leave your cap in for more than 48 hours.

How to put it in

Inserting a cervical cap may sound difficult, but with a bit of practice, it’s not that tough.

Here’s the deal:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Check your cervical cap for holes and weak spots. Filling it with water is a good way to check—if it leaks, you’ve got a hole.
  3. Put a quarter teaspoon or so of spermicide in the dome of the cup, and spread some around the rim, too.
  4. Flip it over to the side with the removal strap and put another half teaspoon in the indentation between the brim and the dome.
  5. Get comfy, like you’re going to put in a tampon.
  6. Put your index and middle fingers into your vagina and feel for your cervix, so you’ll know where to place the cap.
  7. Separate the outer lips of your vagina with one hand, and use the other hand to squeeze the rim of the cap together.
  8. Slide the cap in dome side down, with the long brim first.
  9. Push down toward your anus, then up and onto your cervix. Make sure your cervix is totally covered.

How to take it out

Of course, what goes in must come out (at least 6 hours after you’ve had sex). Here’s how:

  1. Wash your hands again.
  2. Squat down. Put a finger inside your vagina, get a hold of the removal strap, and rotate the cap.
  3. Push on the dome a bit with your finger to break the suction.
  4. Hook your finger under the strap and pull the cap out.

Still having trouble? You might want to consider switching to another method.

Finally, take good care of your cap and it’ll last up to two years.

  • After you take it out, wash it with mild soap and warm water.
  • Let it air dry.
  • Don’t use powders on your cap—they could cause infection.
  • And don’t worry if it becomes discolored. It’ll still work.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

The Negative

  • You can put a cervical cap in hours in advance
  • You can have sex as many times as you like while it’s in
  • Neither you nor your partner should be able to feel it
  • Doesn’t affect your hormones
  • No prescription necessary
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Some women have a hard time inserting it
  • Can cause vaginal irritation
  • Some women wind up getting frequent urinary tract infections
  • You have to use it every time you have sex, no matter what
  • If you’re allergic to spermicide or silicone, you shouldn’t use a cervical cap
  • Can get pushed out of place by large penises, heavy thrusting, or certain sexual positions
  • Hard to remember to use if you’re drunk

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I’ve noticed a nasty smell with the cervical cap.

    This can happen if you’ve left it in more than 48 hours.

    Try this: Rinse it thoroughly and let it dry. If the odor sticks around, you may want to get checked for a condition called bacterial vaginosis (a condition that can cause that bad-smelling discharge).

  • ...The cervical cap is causing irritation.

    The irritation could actually be from an allergy to spermicide.

    Try this: If the irritation isn’t too bad, you might want to try another brand of spermicide.

    Still not working?

    If you’ve tried different types of spermicides and are still having irritation, think about trying a method that doesn’t require any, like the IUD, shot, patch, pill, ring, or implant. If you want to stick with a barrier method, you could try non-spermicidal male condoms.

    Try a different method

  • ...I scratched the surface of my cervix. Ouch.

    That sounds horrible, but luckily, shouldn’t happen very often.

    Still not working?

    If you want to try something else and really want to stick with a barrier method, check out one that you don’t have to insert, like male condoms or female condoms. Or check out a method you can “forget about" for a while, like the IUD, implant, shot, ring, or patch.

    Try a different method

  • ...I can’t get the cervical cap in (or out) easily.

    If you’re new to the cervical cap, check out our “how to.” Practice a little more and do so when it’s not the heat of the moment. Hopefully you’ll soon find it easy to use.

    Still not working?

    If you still find it hard to use after a bit of practice, you might want consult your healthcare provider or try a new method. If you really want to stick with a barrier method, check out one that you don’t have to insert, like male condoms or female condoms. Or check out a method you can “forget about” for a while, like the IUD, implant, ring or patch.

    Try a different method


Perfect use
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Typical use
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quick facts /

  • Immediately effective, no hormones, can be inserted up to 6 hours before sex.

  • The cervical cap’s fairly effective—better with spermicide.

  • Usually no side effects. Some women might experience irritation or discomfort.

  • Gotta be in place every time you have sex.

  • Get fitted for right size by doc or clinic and then pick it up with a prescription.

  • Pay once for fitting ($0-$200) and cap ($0-$89); ongoing cost for spermicide. Why the range? Read on.