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Birth Control Barrier Methods (cont.)

Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a soft cup-shaped latex device that fits over a woman’s cervix. It is smaller than a diaphragm and may more difficult to insert. It must be fitted by a physician because it comes in different sizes. Its use is derived from the eighteenth- to twentieth-century European practice of placing the rind of a lemon or small orange against the cervix prior to intercourse. The groove which is found along the inner circumference of the rim of the cap provides a seal between the rim and the base of the cervix. Spermicide is needed to fill the cap one third full prior to its insertion. It may be inserted as long as 8 hours prior to intercourse, and it can be left in place for as long as 48 hours. A cervical cap acts as both a mechanical barrier to sperm migration into the cervical canal and as a chemical agent because it is used with of spermicide.

  • How effective: The effectiveness depends on whether a woman has had children before, as prior vaginal childbirth influences the shape of her cervix. With perfect use during the first year, a woman who has not had children has a theoretical failure rate of 9% (use failure rate is more typically 20%), as opposed to 20% in a woman who has delivered vaginally (40% use failure rate).
  • Advantages: It provides continuous contraceptive protection as long as it is in place regardless of the number of sex acts. Additional spermicide, unlike for the diaphragm, is not necessary for repeated intercourse. The cervical cap does not involve the usage of hormones.
  • Disadvantages: Cervical erosions may lead to vaginal spotting. The theoretical risk of toxic shock syndrome increases if the cervical cap is left in place longer than than the recommended period. The cervical cap requires professional fitting and training for its use. Severe obesity may make placement difficult. A relatively high failure rate exists. Women must have a history of normal results on Pap smears prior to initiation of its usage. This method does not protect against STDs.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/2/2016
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