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Cervical Cap

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Updated March 31, 2008

Cervical Cap

Cervical Cap, Femcap and Lea's Shield

Photo © 2008 Dawn Stacey
Definition: A cervical cap is a latex or silicone barrier birth control device used to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Like the diaphragm, the cervical cap prevents sperm from reaching an egg. Yet unlike the diaphragm, the cap is much smaller. It must be inserted into the vagina and fits closely over the cervix. The cervical cap keeps sperm from entering the uterus by forming a secure seal around the cervix. For added protection, the cap should be used with spermicide. Insert the cap before having sex (it can be left in place up to 24 hours without more spermicide). After sex, wait at least 6 to 8 hours before removing. The cap must be washed, rinsed, dried, and stored in its case after each use. It should not be used with oil-based lubricants (like petroleum jelly or baby oil) as these can damage the rubber. A woman must go to her doctor to be fitted for the cap, and it should be replaced every year.

The cervical cap is not usually recommended for young women because it can be difficult to correctly insert. Make sure to practice inserting and removing your cervical cap before using it during sex. The highest risk of pregnancy occurs during the first few months of use. To increase effectiveness, check the position of your cap before and after sex to make sure that has stayed in place. If the cap moved during sex, consider using emergency contraception.

Effectiveness:

For those who have not given birth:
  • Typical use: 84% effective
  • Perfect use: 91% effective
  • Of every 100 women who use cervical caps, for those who have not given birth, 16 will become pregnant (with typical use) and 9 will become pregnant with perfect use.
For those who have given birth:
  • Typical use: 68% effective
  • Perfect use: 74% effective
  • Of every 100 women who use cervical caps, for those who have given birth, 32 will become pregnant (with typical use) and 26 will become pregnant with perfect use.
Pronunciation: cer·vi·cal cap: [sur-vi-kuhl kap]
Also Known As: the cap, cervical barrier, the shield

FemCap: silicone cup offered in 3 sizes:

  • Small (never been pregnant)
  • Medium (had a c-section or abortion)
  • Large (had a vaginal birth)

Lea Shield: silicone cup with an air valve and a loop to remove; comes in one size.

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