CERVICAL CAP

EFFECTIVENESS
Fairly effective (71-86%), better with spermicide
SIDE-EFFECTS
Usually no side effects. Some girls might experience irritation or discomfort. If you’re allergic to spermicide or silicone, you shouldn’t use a cervical cap.
COST
You’ll pay once to get it fitted ($0-$200) and cap ($0-$60), then the ongoing cost for spermicide.
WHERE TO GET THEM
Get fitted by a doc or at a clinic, then go pick it up with a prescription.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
Effective immediately and doesn’t involve hormones.
OTHER NOTES
You MUST use a cervical cap every time you have sex.

A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina. It’s designed to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. It looks exactly like a cute little sailor’s hat and is about an inch and a half in diameter. There’s only one brand of the cervical cap available in the U.S., and it’s called the FemCap. (How cute is that?) Cervical caps are best if you’re comfortable with your body: If you’re not ok with putting your fingers in your body, the cervical cap might not be for you. (It’s a lot like inserting a tampon though, so if you can handle that, you should be good to go.)

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.

You’re 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.

A cervical cap can be inserted hours before sex. (We recommend putting it in before you’re turned on, so it doesn’t get in the way of the moment.) But be sure to leave it in up to six hours after you have sex. If you’re going to have sex more than once in the same day, leave your cervical cap in place and insert more spermicide in your vagina. And don’t leave your cap in for more than 48 hours at a time!

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 will last up to two years.

  • After you take it out, wash the cap 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.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be about to get a cervical cap with no out-of-pocket cost. (The cost of spermicide probably won’t be covered by your insurance though.) Manufacturers recommend replacing your cervical cap once a year, so if you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to pay for your cervical cap annually.

Cervical caps are available at clinics and doctor’s offices.

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

You might still need condoms. Cervical caps can be a great birth control method (you can even carry it in your purse if you want!) but they don’t protect you from STIs. Some people drop condoms too soon. Only stop using condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.

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

The Positive

  • It can be inserted 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 during sex
  • Doesn’t affect your hormones
  • No prescription needed (although you have to visit the doctor to get it fitted)
  • Can be used while breastfeeding

The Negative

  • It can be difficult to insert
  • It can cause vaginal irritation
  • Some girls tend to get frequent urinary tract infections
  • You have to use it EVERY time you have sex
  • If you’re allergic to spermicide or silicone, you shouldn’t use a cervical cap

Expert dirt: Hands-on coverage that can last for up to 48 hours.