Cervical Caps and diaphragms are a barrier form of contraception, which means it prevents pregnancy by blocking the cervix and being a barrier between the sperm and the egg. Generally, both the cervical cap and diaphragm fits over the cervix and stays in place by suction. Cervical caps are smaller and cup shaped while diaphragms are bowl shaped with a flexible spring. Both the cervical cap and diaphragm are similarly effective, reusable and require a spermicide for effectiveness. 

The cervical cap and diaphragm are very similar, however the diaphragm is slightly different from the cervical cap, the failure rate of the cervical cap being 18% and that of diaphragm being 20%. The cervical cap can be left in the cervix for 48hours while the diaphragm can only be left in the cervix for 24hours. Both the cap and the diaphragms have to be left in place at least 6 hours after sex. A bacterial infection called Toxic Shock syndrome can occur with diaphragms if left for more than 24hours.

Women who have given birth vaginally to a full term baby would usually do better with the diaphragm than the cervical cap. This is because both the cervix and the vagina may have been stretched during child birth, hence the cap may not fit well. The cervical cap is 86% effective in women who have not given birth and 71% in women who have given birth. It is also important to note that cervical caps are only effective when used correctly. 

The cervical cap and diaphragm have limited side-effects when compared to the hormonal birth controls and intra-uterine device. However, general side-effects of the cap and diaphragm would include possibility of irritation, increased urinary tract infection and possible abnormal pap smear test ( cervical cancer screening). Other side effects include pain during removal, burning sensation, itching, redness, swelling,,and burning during urination. However, spermicides used alongside the cap or diaphragm could cause soe of these side-effects.

A spermicide is added to the cervical cap to kill any sperm that escapes the protection of the cap. However, spermicides do not have to be reapplied after each sexual intercourse. Water-based lubricants can be used latex diaphragms.

Cervical caps and diaphragms are a worthy option of non-hormonal birth controls, though less effective than Intra-uterine device and hormonal pills. They do not protect against sexually transmitted infections and HIV. A male or female condom can be used along side the cao or diaphragm to prevent HIV and STI transmission. However they are hormonal free and may be a suitable option when duely considred.  

Bolade Alonge

Bolade Alonge is a Pharmacist with experience in clinical practice with certifications in Public Health. She has a keen interest in Sexual and reproductive health education. You can send her an email and connect with her on social media:

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