Center for Young Women's Health

Cervical Cap



  • The cervical cap fits around the cervix.
  • Spermicidal gel should always be used with the cervical cap.
  • The cervical cap must be inserted before any sexual activity.
Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a soft dome-shaped cup made of silicone, with a firm rounded rim. The rim fits tightly around the base of your cervix. The cap forms a physical barrier to stop sperm from reaching your uterus, so you don't get pregnant. Spermicidal gel is always used with the cervical cap to kill or paralyze sperm.


Out of 100 *nulliparous women using a cervical cap
Typical use: 14 women become pregnant 16 Pregnant Women
Perfect use: 9 women become pregnant 9 Pregnant Women


Out of 100 *parous women using a cervical cap
Typical use: 29 women become pregnant
Perfect use: 26 women become pregnant 26 Pregnant Women


*Nulliparous is a medical term that means that a woman has never given birth to a baby.

*Parous is a medical term that means a woman has given birth to one or more babies.


Women using a barrier method, such as a diaphragm, cervical cap, or sponge, should be aware of the very low risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Also, women who are allergic to nonoxyl-9 should not use any vaginal barrier method that contains spermicide or works with spermicide.


Does the cervical cap protect against STDs?

No. This is why it is important to use condoms for STD and HIV protection.


Where can I get the cervical cap?

Your health care provider needs to fit you for the cervical cap and then it is available by prescription. It costs between $60-$75. The spermicide can be bought over-the-counter at drug stores.


How do I use the cervical cap?

You can insert the cervical cap 15 minutes to several hours before you have sexual intercourse. The cap should be inserted before any sexual arousal. You should not use the cervical cap when you have your menstrual period.


Before you do anything, empty your bladder and wash your hands. Use your first two fingers to find your cervix. It feels like the tip of your nose. You may have to squat down, lie down, or stand up with one leg up on a stool or the toilet to find your cervix.


Put a very small amount of spermicide (about 1/4 tsp) in the rim of the cap, and spread it around the outer brim, except for where your finger and thumb are holding the cap. Next turn the cap over and put about 1/2 tsp of spermicide in the groove between the brim and the dome that will face into your vagina.


Squeeze the cap to flatten it, and insert it into your vagina with the bowl facing upward and the long brim entering first. Push it downward and back as far as you can. Press upwards on the strap and the dome of the cap while squatting. Continue this pressure for at least ten seconds. Make sure the cap is pushed all the way in and covers the cervix completely. When it's correctly inserted, you should not feel the cap as you go about your activities.


Once the cap is in place, the cap lowers the chance of your getting pregnant for up to 48 hours, no matter how many times you have intercourse. Before repeating intercourse within the next 48 hours, check the cap's position, and insert additional spermicide without removing the cap.


How do I remove the cap?

Leave the cap in for at least 6 hours after intercourse. You should not keep it in longer than a total of 48 hours. Before you remove the cap, wash your hands. To remove the cap, it helps to squat. Push your fingertip against the dome of the cap to dimple it. This breaks the suction. Next hook the removal strap with the tip of your finger and gently pull the cap out of your vagina. Use a mild soap and warm water to wash the cap inside and out. Dry the cap really well or let it air dry, and put it back in its container. Keep in a place that is room temperature.


What if I need more lubrication?

If you need more lubrication, you can use a vaginal lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly). Do not use any oil-based products (such as baby oil, suntan oil, or vegetable oil) since they can break down the material of the cervical cap and make it less effective.


How effective is the cervical cap against pregnancy?

If women use the cervical cap every time they have sexual intercourse and follow instructions every time, it's 96% effective. This means that if 100 women use the cervical cap all the time and always use it correctly, 4 or more will become pregnant in a year.


Although it's obvious that the cervical cap is most effective against pregnancy when it is used all the time and always used correctly, perfect use hardly ever happens. If women use the cervical cap but not perfectly, it's 86% effective. This means that if 100 women use the cervical cap, 14 women will become pregnant in a year.


Can I douche?

You shouldn't douche after intercourse, because douching can cause pelvic infections. (If you do decide to douche, you should wait 6 hours after intercourse so that the spermicide does not get washed away.)


Are there any problems with the use of the cervical cap?

Sometimes, the cervical cap may get moved out of place during sexual intercourse. Also, some women may be allergic to the material of the cervical cap or the spermicide used with it. The cervical cap may possibly cause changes in the cells of your cervix, so you need to get a second Pap smear 3 months after your start using it. You should get a pelvic exam once a year after this to check on the wear and fit of the cervical cap.


Do I ever need to replace my cervical cap?

Yes. You should get a new cervical cap about once a year. Also, after childbirth or if you feel that the cervical cap does not fit well, you probably need to get a new cap. See your health care provider and discuss it with him/her.


Can any woman use the cervical cap?

Many women can use a cervical cap, but some can't. If you've had abnormal Pap tests, known or suspected uterine or cervical cancer, or there's no cap size that fits you, you can't use the cervical cap. You also can't use the cervical cap if you have or possibly have uterine or cervical cancer or current infections of the cervix and vagina. Also, if you're allergic to silicone, you shouldn't use the cervical cap.


Should I use any other type of contraception with the cervical cap?

Until you become comfortable with inserting the cervical cap correctly (usually one week to one month), use a backup method of contraception. You should always use the spermicide that is labeled for use with the cervical cap. It's also a good idea to use a male condom when you are using the cervical cap. This will increase the effectiveness and lessen your chance of getting an STD. Discuss with your health care provider how to use emergency contraception if the cap gets moved out of place.


Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 4/28/2014


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