The cap gave me freedom and control ... without any added hormones

I am an endangered species: one of the 1 per cent of women in Britain who have chosen the cap as their method of birth control. At 49, I have been using it for 17 years with no regrets - and no pregnancies.

I came off the combined Pill at the age of 32, when my blood pressure started to creep slowly upwards, my legs started to ache and I began putting on weight. Although I was in a stable relationship, I wanted a reliable method where I - not a man or a doctor - had control. I also wanted something that would not permanently interfere with my body or its natural cycles. The cap seemed the best option.

It didn't take long to acquire the knack of getting it in: I was lucky to have a good friend and fellow-user, who gave me a practical demonstration. The days of chasing a slippery flying saucer around the room are now long gone, since C-film [a square of contraceptive spermicide that melts in the vagina] can be used instead of the more traditional creams and jellies.

I have never found the cap deserved its reputation as a calculating passion-killer. Women in a stable relationship can insert it as part of their normal bedtime routine; the worst that can happen is its removal next morning unused. Those who have a less predictable sex life may find they need to be sensitive about when to insert it: caught unawares by passion, they may have to choose between nipping to the bathroom or putting it in on the hoof. Even better is having a competent and trustworthy partner insert it: this may cool his ardour temporarily, but it will certainly preserve yours.

With careful, conscientious use the cap is 95 per cent reliable. However, it is no earthly use left in the drawer at home and the temptation to use it without spermicide must be resisted. The cap also confers a degree of protection against cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. Those women who do decide to try it may find that it gives them a greater sense of freedom and control, not to mention reducing anxieties about their health.

PAMELA GORHAM

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