How to Use the Cervical Cap for Pregnancy Prevention

February 10, 2011

Although the idea of covering up the cervix as a means of preventing pregnancy has been around for centuries, the modern-day cervical cap was not approved by the FDA until 1988. Today's cervical caps are marketed under the brand name FemCap, which is currently the only brand available in the United States. The FemCap is inserted into the vagina prior to sex, and is essentially a dome-shaped cap which can be reused. Cervical caps are commonly known as barrier methods to pregnancy, and while the FemCap is similar to the diaphragm, it is smaller, and the material it is constructed of is silicone rather than latex. You should be able to walk around when the cervical cap is inserted without feeling it, and your partner should not be able to feel the cervical cap during sexual intercourse-nor should you.

How Does the FemCap Work?

The cervical cap's "job" is to prevent sperm from entering into the uterus or fallopian tubes. The FemCap covers the cervix, but most women add spermicide to the cap prior to insertion as an extra measure of protection against pregnancy. If the sperm is prohibited from entering the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg, then no pregnancy can occur. While the cervical cap does not protect against HIV or other STDs, it is generally considered to be from 82-91 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy, if it is used correctly, and used consistently. The FemCap is less effective when used by women who have given vaginal birth. The cervical cap can remain inside the vagina for up to forty-eight hours, although it's not recommended it remain any longer than this. However, the FemCap must stay in place at least six hours following intercourse, and if you have sex more than once during a 48-hour time period, don't remove the cap, just check its position and add more spermicide.

Do I Need a Prescription?

You will have to see your doctor and get a prescription for the cervical cap. The cap comes in three sizes, so your doctor will have to do an internal exam to determine which size is right for you.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Leaving the FemCap in place for more than eight hours can increase a woman's risk for toxic shock syndrome, which is a serious health problem resulting from bacteria which grows in the cervical cap, especially if it is left in place longer than 24 hours. Toxic shock warning signs include a sore throat, achy muscles and joints, such as you experience when you have the flu, a sudden high fever with vomiting or diarrhea, or a rash which resembles a sunburn. If you experience any of these symptoms following the use of the FemCap, you should immediately go to the nearest emergency room.

Benefits of the Cervical Cap

The FemCap is simple, relatively easy to insert and portable, and, because it can be inserted in advance, it is not as likely to interrupt the sexual spontaneity. The cervical cap contains no hormones, which many women prefer as it does not interfere with the body's natural hormones.

Disadvantages

The cervical cap offers no protection against HIV or STD's and is not the most effective form of birth control, especially if it does not fit correctly, or slips during intercourse. Because you must have a fitting and a prescription, it can be less convenient than some other methods. Some women dislike the cap because it is messy, and others will experience irritation or discomfort.

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