If you are sexually active, it is important to consider what type of birth control is best for you if want to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Birth control is available in a variety of different forms and, when used properly, they function as effective and safe contraception.
Barrier methods of birth control are becoming increasingly popular in North America, as they are easy to use and have few side effects. The cervical cap is one of the more recently approved barrier birth control methods, and offers excellent protection against pregnancy for many women.
What is the Cervical Cap?
The cervical cap is a type of barrier birth control that is used to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Like the diaphragm, the cervical cap works to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Unlike the diaphragm, however, the cervical cap is much smaller and fits more tightly around the cervix when in place.
Made out of silicone rubber, there is currently only one type of cervical cap available on the American market. Known as the FemCap, this cervical cap consists of a dome that covers the cervix, a brim which holds the cap tightly in place, and a groove which can hold spermicide jelly or cream. It costs about $60.
How Does the Cervical Cap Work?
The cervical cap works to prevent pregnancy by blocking the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus. The cervical cap tightly covers the cervix, preventing sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing an egg. The cap is held in place by your vaginal muscles, which stop it from becoming dislodged during intercourse. The cervical cap is intended to be used with spermicide, which works to kill any sperm that come into contact with the cap.
How Do You Get the Cervical Cap?
The cervical cap is available by prescription from your health care provider. It is necessary to get a cervical cap that fits snugly and comfortably inside of your vagina. The FemCap is available in the following sizes based on the individual's obstetrical history:
- 22 millimeters, which is designed for women who have never been pregnant
- 26 millimeters, which is designed for women who have been pregnant but never had a vaginal birth
- 30 millimeters, which is designed for women who have had previous vaginal births
How Do You Use The Cervical Cap?
The cervical cap should be inserted prior to intercourse. You will need to apply a small amount of spermicide to the bowl and brim of the cap. You will also need to apply about half a teaspoon of spermicide to the groove on the cervical cap, in order to protect against pregnancy. To insert the cap, pinch the cap so that it folds in half, bowl side up. Push the cap into your vagina and down towards your rectum. Then push the cervical cap as far back as you can, so that it covers your cervix.
You can leave the cervical cap in place for up to 48 hours. There is no need to reapply spermicide every time you have sex. Be sure to leave the cap in place for at least eight hours after intercourse.
To remove the cap, insert your finger into your vagina and push gently on the dome of the cap. This will release the suction that is holding the cap on your cervix. Pull on the strap located on the front of the cap and remove the device.
After it has been removed, wash the cervical cap in warm water and mild, antibacterial hand soap. Allow to air dry or pat with a towel, and store the cap in its protective case.
When Using the Cervical Cap
When using the cervical cap, it is important to look after it properly. Avoid putting baby powder or oil-based lubricants on the cap, as this can damage the silicone. Also try to prevent the cap from coming into contact with vaginal creams or antibiotics. Check your cap every time you use it for holes or tears. This can be done by holding the cap up to the light or by placing water in the bowl. Cervical caps generally last for at least a year, when looked after properly.
Advantage of Using the Cervical Cap
The cervical cap does have a number advantages:
- It doesn't affect your fertility or your menstrual cycle.
- It can be left in your vagina for up to 48 hours.
- It is usually unnoticeable to both partners.
- It requires less spermicide than the diaphragm, which increases the pleasure of oral sex.
Disadvantages of Using the Cervical Cap
The cervical cap is not a perfect method of birth control and does have some disadvantages:
- It must be prescribed by your health care provider.
- It can be difficult to insert properly and may become dislodged during intercourse.
- Unlike some other kinds of birth control, it is not effective protection against STDs.