- Birth control
- Cervical cap
What is a cervical cap?
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.
The cervical cap’s fairly effective—better with spermicide.
Perfect use: n/a% effective
Typical use: 71-86% effective
What does perfect vs typical use mean?
Usually no side effects. Some women might experience irritation or discomfort.
Gotta be in place every time you have sex.
Easy to get
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.
It might be for you if…
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.
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.
How do you use it?
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:
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- 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.
- Put a quarter teaspoon or so of spermicide in the dome of the cup, and spread some around the rim, too.
- Flip it over to the side with the removal strap and put another half teaspoon in the indentation between the brim and the dome.
- Get comfy, like you’re going to put in a tampon.
- Put your index and middle fingers into your vagina and feel for your cervix, so you’ll know where to place the cap.
- Separate the outer lips of your vagina with one hand, and use the other hand to squeeze the rim of the cap together.
- Slide the cap in dome side down, with the long brim first.
- 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:
- Wash your hands again.
- Squat down. Put a finger inside your vagina, get a hold of the removal strap, and rotate the cap.
- Push on the dome a bit with your finger to break the suction.
- 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.
How much does it cost?
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.)
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.
- This method may be free or low-cost for you
- With Medicaid: Free
- With insurance: Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the cervical cap at reduced cost.
- Without insurance: According to Planned Parenthood, the exam can cost from $0 to $200. The retail cost of the cap is $89, or you can get a two-pack for $130.
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).
What are the side effects and benefits?
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.
- 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