The cervical cap is only really a cap in the way it looks, if you have an imagination. In reality, the way the cervical cap works is much more like a plug, it is pushed up into the vagina until it covers the cervix so no sperm can enter the uterus. The cap is made of soft latex or silicone with a round rim, which is smaller than the diaphragm and only covers the cervix. It requires an initial fitting by your healthcare provider. It may not work as well for women who have given birth as childbirth stretches the vagina and cervix so the cap may not fit as well. The cap should not be used alone though, to keep yourself properly protected the cap should always be used with spermicides.
You must put the cap in the vagina before you have sex and this might feel a little tricky at first but practice, as always, makes you more familiar with the process. First wash your hands, grab the cap and spermicide. Start by filling the cap’s dome with spermicide and spreading some around the edges too, then flip it over and do the same on the other side.
Now, putting it in place starts just like you’re putting in a tampon, squeeze the cap together, push it inside you and push up until it’s sitting snugly over your cervix and then you’re ready. Don’t forget to make sure you can feel the handle, you’ll be needing that. You must leave the cap in place for at least 6 hours after having sex and you may leave the cap in for up to 48 hours.
To remove the cap, squat down and press the dome to break the suction, then find the handle and use it to pull gently out.
PROS AND CONS
It can be used on demand
They are easily carried with you
It isn’t affected by other medications
It can be used when breastfeeding
It can interfere with sexual spontaneity
Using it can take practice
It requires keeping track of the hours inserted
Not always suitable for women who have given birth
Requires initial fitting by healthcare provider
Effectiveness increases when used in combination with spermicides
Low efficacy even when used as directed
The cap may cause irritation or allergic reactions
If you keep it in place longer than 48 hours, there is a risk of toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock is a rare but serious infection
Does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
LEARN HOW TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH:
Your healthcare provider knows the subject better than anyone; get the right answers for you
They know you better than anyone, and they’ve been through it too
You’re in this together, and not just in the bedroom, be honest
What happens if I accidentally swallow some spermicide?
Most spermicides have an unpleasant taste but will not usually harm you or make you feel ill, however it is advisable to avoid swallowing excessive amounts. If you are concerned about feeling ill following swallowing some spermicide, you should seek the advice of a healthcare provider.
How does a spermicide work?
Spermicides contain substances that kill sperm. Some products also form a thick foam or mucus which blocks the cervix and acts as a barrier against the sperm. They can come in the form of foam, foaming tablets, pessaries, creams, jellies and sponges. Spermicides are not effective enough when used alone, and should be used in combination with barrier methods such as the diaphragm or cap.
Can the cervical cap be used during menstruation?
No, the cervical cap cannot be used during menstruation, as it would impede the natural flow of menstrual bleeding. To be protected against unintended pregancies during that period in time, you must use another contraceptive method, such as condoms, until your menstruation is finished.
How is a cervical cap fitted?
The cervical cap comes in different size, ranging from 22 to 26 mm. A pelvic examination by your doctor or healthcare provider will determine which size you need based on your obstetrical history e.g. women who never have been pregnant will use a smaller size than women who have had delivered a baby. Smaller or larger sizes are then inserted until the correct fit is achieved. It should fit snugly into the upper half of the vagina. The woman should practice insertion under supervision and placement should be inspected to ensure that the fitting ring is correctly positioned in the vagina. The cervical cap may require resizing following a full-term pregnancy, pelvic surgery, or abortion, or if there is a major change in weight. It is recommended that the cervical cap gets replaced every year or even sooner if it shows any signs of deterioration.
Can a cervical cap get lost or stuck inside my body?
There is no reason for the cervical cap to get lost or stuck inside your body. It will be specifically fitted by a healthcare provider to ensure it fits and can be used effectively by you. The cervical cap should also be checked frequently by a healthcare provider to make sure it still fits properly.
Why should the cervical cap not be worn for longer than 48 hours without interruption?
Wearing the diaphragm for longer than 48 hours without interruption can promote bacterial growth inside the vagina. These bacteria can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Toxic shock is a rare but serious infection.
Do I remove the cervical cap immediately after sex?
A cervical cap should be removed no sooner than 6 hours after intercourse and can be left in place for up to 48 hours after intercourse. Additional spermicide is required with subsequent acts of intercourse. If more spermicide is required it should be placed in the vagina and the cervical cap should be left in place.
What happens if I want to have sex spontaneously?
The cervical cap can be inserted immediately before or up to 40 hours before intercourse. Some people do find that this might interfere with spontaneity.