This site is intended for healthcare professionals

Go to /sign-in page

You can view 5 more pages before signing in

Cap (vaginal)

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

The vaginal diaphragm is probably the safest form of female barrier contraceptive. It is a barrier of rubber or latex stretched across a circular rim that fits between the posterior fornix and the anterior vaginal wall just above the symphysis pubis thereby covering the cervix.

Spermicidal jelly should be placed on either side of the diaphragm which is inserted prior to intercourse (all caps require spermicide to achieve 95-97% effectiveness (1)). It should remain in position for at least 6 hours after intercourse so as to allow the spermicide to kill any spermatozoa.

However, it is inadvisable to leave the diaphragm in the vagina for more than 16 hours after intercourse as it becomes irritant and may lead to cystitis and vaginal colonisation by Staphylococcus aureus.

If there is poor vaginal tone or mild prolapse, lack of post-pubic shelf, or recurrent cystitis then the patient should be changed to a cervical cap (1).


  • cheap
  • woman can fit the device herself
  • straightforward to use


  • hypersensitivity to rubber or spermicide may preclude use
  • high failure rate if poor fit
  • anatomic variation may alter fitting - e.g. during pregnancy, due to age, uterine prolapse or perineal relaxation

A yearly replacement is recommended.


  • 1) Prescriber (2001), 12 (5), 83-95.

Related pages

Create an account to add page annotations

Add information to this page that would be handy to have on hand during a consultation, such as a web address or phone number. This information will always be displayed when you visit this page