Cervical Cap

What is a cervical cap?

The brand of cervical cap available in the US is the FemCap. The FemCap is a silicone cup shaped like a sailor's hat that fits securely in the vagina to cover the cervix. It is necessary to use a small amount of spermicidal cream or gel with this method. 

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How does it work?

Cervical caps act as a physical and a chemical barrier, similar to the diaphragm, to prevent sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing an egg. They must be used with spermicidal cream or jelly which helps inactivate sperm. 

How effective are they in preventing pregnancy and STIs?

The typical pregnancy rate (which includes imperfect insertion and inconsistent use) for cervical cap users who have never given birth is 16% per year (meaning that the device is 84% effective at preventing pregnancy); the perfect use pregnancy rate is 9% per year. Pregnancy rates for users who have given birth are 32% for typical use and 26% perfect use. The difference in rates is because the cervix is bigger after childbirth and the cap may not fit as well.

It is important to consider that this method does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using a condom along with a cervical cap will provide you with STI protection and also further decrease the possibility of pregnancy. 

How do I use them?

Insert the FemCap no more than 24 hours before sexual intercourse. Before use, hold it up to the light and look closely for holes or weak spots. Put 1/4 teaspoon of spermicide cream or jelly in the dome of the Fem Cap, spread a thin layer on the brim, and put 1/2 teaspoon in the folded area between the brim and the dome. Insert the Fem Cap in the vagina with the long brim entering first and the dome-side down. Push towards the rectum and then up and onto the cervix. Do not remove the Fem Cap for at least 8 hours after intercourse. It can be worn for up to 48 hours. During this time, you can have sex again, just make sure the Fem Cap is still in place and and you can insert more spermicide into your vagina if you like. To remove, grip the removal strap and rotate Fem Cap. Push on the dome with your finger to break the suction. Hook your finger under the removal strap and pull it out.

After each use, clean the cap with mild soap and let it air dry. Store it in a dry place, away from heat and light. You will need to replace the FemCap after 2 years or sooner if you notice any tears or holes.

What are some advantages?

  • Cervical caps are non-hormonal barrier methods.

  • They are effective immediately and can be reversed immediately.

  • They may help make sex more spontaneous because they can be inserted ahead of time and left in for up to 2 days.

  • They are inexpensive and reusable.

  • Using these methods increases familiarity with one's vagina and cervix.

  • These methods can be used during breastfeeding. 

What are some disadvantages?

  • They cannot be used during menstruation.

  • Some users may have difficulty inserting them correctly.

  • Occasionally, they may come off during intercourse or a bowel movement.

  • This method requires a prescription from your medical provider.

  • Some users who use the cap may develop vaginal irritation. This can be a sign of an allergy to the spermicide. If you have a mild reaction to spermicide, try switching brands to clear up the problem.

  • Some users or their partners may feel pain or discomfort when using the cervical cap. 

What are the possible side effects?

Serious problems are very rare when you use the cervical cap. Check with your health care provider (Brown students can call Health Services at 401.863-1330) if you:

  • feel a burning sensation while urinating

  • are uncomfortable when the cervical cap is in place

  • have irregular spotting and bleeding

  • feel irritation or itching in the genital area

  • have redness or swelling of the vulva or vagina

  • have unusual discharge from the vagina

These symptoms may be a sign of infection or other condition. Most conditions are easily treated. 

Where can I get a cervical cap?

Because cervixes come in different sizes, the cervical cap needs to be fitted individually by a medical provider. The fit should be checked during a pelvic exam each year and/or after every pregnancy. The FemCap comes in 3 sizes and these sizes may not fit all. If you are interested in being fitted for a cervical cap, a medical provider at Health Services can discuss this with you and give you a referral. 

Related Links

If you want to learn more about cervical caps, you can visit:

Planned Parenthood

Fem Cap

  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111