There are many different forms of birth control, from hormonal types to barrier protection. One that falls under the barrier category is the cervical cap.
A cervical cap is a small cup made of silicone that fits over the cervix and blocks sperm from entering the uterus. Suction holds the cap in place. In order to be as effective as possible, the cervical cap must be used with spermicide cream or jelly. The spermicide stops sperm from moving. Right now, FemCap is the only brand of cervical cap available in the United States.
The cap is self-inserted into the vagina at least 15 minutes before having sex. Its position needs to be checked and spermicide added each time a couple has sexual intercourse. After sex, the cap must be left in place for at least six hours. A cervical cap shouldn’t be left in for more than 48 hours.
The cervical cap shouldn’t be used during menstruation as it could increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
The cervical cap has many benefits. Generally, it can’t be felt by either partner. It’s immediately effective and doesn’t affect future fertility. It has no effect on a woman's natural hormones or menstrual cycle. And it can be used during breastfeeding.
There are also disadvantages with the cervical cap. It requires a prescription and must be fitted by a health care professional. It can’t be used during menstruation. It can be dislodged by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting and certain sexual positions. It must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse. Plus, the cervical cap doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Most women can use the cervical cap without problem, but some experience side effects. These include an allergic reaction or vaginal irritation due to spermicide or silicone, strong odor, or vaginal discharge if the cap is left in too long. Toxic shock syndrome is a rare complication.
The cervical cap isn’t right for everyone. For example, women who are allergic to silicone or spermicide, who have given birth in the last 10 weeks, or who have a history of toxic shock syndrome aren’t good candidates for the cap.