Birth Control: Diaphragm and Cervical Cap

Diaphragm with spermicide in place on cervix.The diaphragm and the cervical cap are cup-shaped devices that are inserted into the vagina. They protect against pregnancy by covering the cervix. They keep sperm from entering the uterus to meet the egg.

Pregnancy rates

Talk to your healthcare provider about the effectiveness of this birth control method.

Using the diaphragm or cervical cap

  • These devices must be fitted and prescribed by a health care professional. You will be instructed on how to insert them.

  • These devices must be used with spermicides, which are creams, foams or gels that kill sperm.

  • The diaphragm can be inserted up to two hours before sex and the cervical cap up to six hours before sex.

  • The diaphragm can be left in place for up to 24 hours, the cervical cap for up to 48 hours.


  • Provides birth control right away.

  • Can be inserted ahead of time.

  • Easy to stop if you decide you want to become pregnant.

  • May protect against certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but not HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


  • Requires planning ahead.

  • May be hard for some women to insert.

  • May increase risk of urinary tract infection (UTI) or toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but serious disorder caused by toxins release by certain bacteria.

  • Must be left in place for 6 to 8 hours after sex.

  • Cervical cap can’t be used during your period.

  • Cervical cap is significantly less effective for a woman who has given birth.

The diaphragm or cervical cap may not be for you if…

  • You’re allergic to all spermicides.

  • You can’t reach your cervix or insert the device correctly.

  • You are not willing to plan ahead or to interrupt sex to use it.


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