Cervical Cap for Birth Control: Care Instructions

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Female pelvic organs, showing an ovary, uterus, cervix, bladder, clitoris, and anus, with spermicide put in cervical cap and placed in vagina at cervix.

Your Care Instructions

The cervical cap is used to prevent pregnancy. It is made of silicone. The cap is called a barrier method because it keeps the sperm and eggs apart. It fits inside your vagina and covers the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus.

You use the cap with a spermicide each time you have vaginal sex. The cap will last for 1 year.

You need a prescription from your doctor for a cap. Your doctor can help fit you for the right size. Your doctor may ask you to come back to make sure you know how to place the cap and use it correctly.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

How do you use the cervical cap?

  • Insert the cap each time you have intercourse. Read the instructions for how to insert the cap. It must be done correctly to protect against pregnancy. In general:
    • Apply spermicide (contraceptive jelly) to the cap according to the directions.
    • Insert the cap all the way into your vagina. Make sure it is covering your cervix.
    • Remove the cap by pulling it out with the removal strap.
  • You can insert the cap up to 6 hours before having intercourse. Leave the cap in place for at least 6 hours after intercourse. Do not leave it in for more than 48 hours.
  • If you have sex more than one time when the cap is in place, put a small amount of spermicide on the tip of your finger. Insert your finger into your vagina and check the position of the cap. Don't remove the cap.
  • Avoid using any petroleum-based vaginal creams, oils, or ointments, which can damage the silicone. But water-based personal lubricants, such as Astroglide and K-Y Jelly, are safe to use.

What if you think the cap is not placed correctly or not protecting you from pregnancy?

  • Always read the instructions.
  • Call your doctor and use backup birth control, such as a condom, or don't have intercourse until you know the cap is working.
  • If you had intercourse, you can use emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is an IUD (inserted by a doctor). You can also get emergency contraceptive pills. You can get them with a prescription from your doctor or without a prescription at most drugstores.

What else do you need to know?

  • Spermicide used with the cap may cause an allergic reaction. It can cause itching or sores in the vagina or on the penis.
  • Don't use the cap during your period. Use another method, such as a condom, or don't have intercourse.
  • Check the cap often. Get a new cap if you see holes, tears, or discoloration.
  • Wash the cap with warm water and hand soap after removing it. Make sure it's dry before you store it in its container. Do not use talcum or baby powder on the cap. These products may break down the silicone or irritate the vagina.
  • If you gain or lose a lot of weight, have abdominal surgery, or have a baby, talk to your doctor to see if you need a different size.
  • The cap doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV/AIDS. If you're not sure whether your sex partner might have an STI, use a condom to protect against disease. Using a condom with the cap also protects better against pregnancy.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.