Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Honey Cap


An AFP report on the healing properties of honey in diabetic ulcers made me think of the potential contraceptive effects of honey.

As you probably already know, honey was used in antiquity as a spermicide. But did you also know that, to this day, honey is still employed as a birth control method by women (mainly in the UK) who use the Honey Cap.

The Honey Cap is just a regular diaphragm [usually a smaller size one, like the 60 mm] used in combination with honey, instead of a regular spermicide. The honey is added to the inside of the dome, and the diaphragm is soaked in honey before use. [When not in use it's kept in a jar of honey.] The Honey Cap can be left in place for up to three days, as opposed to a maximum of 24 hours for the diaphragm-with-spermicide method. Since honey is not toxic, the hope is that the extended wear would not result in an increase in the incidence of vaginal irritation or infection.

The Honey Cap method was developed in the U.S. several decades ago, and the initial experience with it appeared promising, although, according to the Margaret Pyke organization, no clinical trials on the efficacy rate, or the adverse side effects were conducted.

Because of the lack of data we don't know how well the Honey Cap works, how safe it is, or what the continuation rates are. So, if you're interested in the Honey Cap, how do you decide if you should use it or not? [If you live in the UK, your MD might have some clinical experience with this method.]

Well, one way to go about it is to look at data from studies of a somewhat similar method to use as a guideline. Your main concerns/unknowns with the Honey Cap are (1) efficacy [since you're not using a regular spermicide, are you more likely to become pregnant? True, honey does have spermicidal qualities, but we don't know how effective it is.], and (2) safety [will the extended use cause more problems--UTIs, lesions, discharge, etc.?].

From studies comparing the effectiveness, safety and acceptability of the diaphragm with and without a regular spermicide, the unanimous conclusion is that further research is needed but, at present, there's no evidence to change the commonly recommended practice of using the diaphragm with [a regular] spermicide.

Looking at studies of women who used the diaphragm continuously without spermicide (CU), one retrospective review found that (a) [p]atient and total failure rate were significantly lower in the CU (0.6 and 2.8), in comparison with the [traditional use] sub-group (6.5 and 9.8), (b) [t]he discontinuation rate for urinary infection or other medical reasons was not greater in the CU group, and (c) 84.84% continued use for 12 months, in the CU group.

Another pilot study found that (a) [t]he 12-month life table accidental pregnancy rate for all participants during typical use was 24.1/100 women. The pregnancy rate was 29.5/100 women without female barrier experience and 17.9 among women with barrier experience., (b) [p]roduct-related problems related to insertion, retention and removal were few at both the 6- and 12-month follow-up visits, most commonly odor, and (c) ~10% of the women discontinued use because of lack of confidence in the method.

Bottom line: Don't use the diaphragm, to begin with, if pregnancy is unacceptable to you. If you do choose this method, use the information from studies of continuous use of diaphragm without spermicide to help you decide if you should use the Honey Cap.

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At 1:22 AM, Blogger belabored presumptions said... seems counterintuitive to use honey, as it would be the perfect food for yeast. but then, nonoxynol-9 has shown increased rate of infection as well, so another layered factor in the the decision between honey vs. spermicide vs. nothing.

At 2:24 AM, Blogger ema said...

Agreed, and also consider that some women (and their partner) find regular spermicide to be an irritant.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use the Honey Cap and for exactly the reasoning that having nonoxynol - 9 inside me was not something i wanted when using conventional diaphragms. I have not had any problems using the Honey Cap or had an increase in yeast infections. I leave only a very small amount of honey on it after removing it from its honey pot jar. The latex/rubber (it looks and fits exactly like a conventional diaphragm) is itself impregnated with honey. Placing it in the honey pot after cleaning does not recharge its honey properties (honey is antiseptic/acidic versus alkaline sperm) but disinfects, cleans and stops it from drying out.
I am in a monogamous relationship and loathed condoms and was horrified by the spermicidal cream ingredients and disliked the mess. It does not protect against STI's but apart from that i cannot fault it for safe and effective contraception.
I got period like pain when using the conventional diapragm. It turned out my doctor had fitted me with one at 80mm. My Honey Cap, when fitted by the only UK doctor in London i know that carries out consultations and supplies Honey Caps, gave me a 60 mm one. No pain, and i forget it is there. It was originally designed to be worn all the time, being removed for cleaning every three days.

At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used a honey cap for five years and found it to be very easy to use and 100% reliable. I don't understand why more doctors don't offer this alternative to women rather than encouraging them to put artificial hormones and chemicals into their bodies.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been using a honey cap for at least 17 years, not one infection and no unplanned pregnancy. When I did want to get pregant was very lucky and fell pregnant within two months of removing it each time(3 pregancies in my thirties). So it certainly has been effective for me. One word of warning - a friend had one fitted shortly after having a baby and quickly became pregnant again. Maybe the cervix needed time to settle?

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you use a regular honey jar from the shops or does the doctor supply a special preparation for this?

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

where did all of you get the honey cap? I can't seem to find it in London?

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This London clinic fits and supplies honey caps (and other types) They fitted me and I was very happy with their service.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anon @ 9:12 PM,

Thank you for the pointer.

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used the honey cap for 17 years and have found it very reliable. you just pop it in and leave it. You should leave it 9 hours after intercourse for the honey to do it's work. I personally also use withdrawal during ovulation just for my own peace of mind but I'm sure don't need to.
You keep the cap-when not in use- in a regular pot of honey. You rinse it off in water before insertion. Yeast infections are not relevant here, the rubber is impregnated with honey, it's not the honey it's kept in that is doing the work here. You get it from, Dr Shirley Bond 144 Harley St, London. Any more questions?

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, my sister, my step mother and my friend have all used the cap for year with no probs.

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nearly 2 years ago... hm, hope someone's still reading here (espacially the anonymos, that used it for 17 years) :)

Hi ema.
We are a group of interestet women in Germany and have some questions. There are so few informations in the web - we hope you may answer some questions.

"[usually a smaller size one, like the 60 mm]"

Why is used a smaller dia than normal? Doesn't this cause a smaller PI when the dia deosn't fit well? Or is it used like a Portiokappe (like a "lea")

"The honey is added to the inside of the dome, and the diaphragm is soaked in honey before use."

An austrian gynecologist (she obtains it directly form Dr. Bond ) and other sources say, no(!) honey used as spermicide-gel ist nessecary.
Some uf us are afraid of using honey as gel, because 1. it gets liquid and more important 2. it contains sugar and may ease mycosis?
And if no honey is needed to add and honey isn't spermicide itsself: how could it work?!

Kind regards - thoe

(I can leave an eMail- or aim-adress if neccessairy)

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't find out on this site when any of the comments were posted. But I have been using a honeycap for 20 years and have found it 100% reliable, with no unpleasant side effects whatsoever. I also get mine from Dame Dr Shirley Bond in Harley Street, London. You need to get a new one every 12 months for it to be effective as it has a life. The honey impregnated in the latex acts as the effective anti-sperm contraception. Keeping it in a jar when not in use merely cleanses it from any bacteria - you do not need to retain any honey on it when re-inserting it, it can be washed totally clean. I keep mine in permanently, only removing it to wash it every 2-3 days (making sure it is 9 or more hours after sex). I only place it in the jar of clear honey during my monthly period. The diameter of honeycap needed depends on your internal size, which is why you need to be fitted by a gynaecologist. After that, you should also consult your gynae if you put on or lose a lot of weight as this can affect the size required. I have no idea why it might be smaller than the regular kind of cap. I have never used any other form of contraception, because I hated the idea of the pill messing around with my natural hormones and I both loathe and mistrust the effectiveness of condoms. The honeycap does not interfere with your body in any way, is easy to insert and you cannot feel it at all (even my boyfriend cannot feel it when having intercourse). Since no spermicide is necessary, the spontaneity and sexiness of making love is not ruined by having to insert a spermicide gel or apply a condom.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anon @12:24 PM,

1) Size:

The smaller size is usually used in order to get a tighter fit over the cervix, but it's not a set rule. Ultimately, it all comes down to which size best fits a patient.

No, it's not used like a Lea's Shield. That's a one-size-fits-all, and it's fitted differently than a diaphragm. [Lea is held in place by the vaginal wall.]

2) Honey:

There are two separate issues here. One, storing the diaphragm in honey between use, and two, adding honey to the dome (like you would do with a spermicide gel) before insertion.

Now, honey is a natural sperm killer, hence the theory that you could use it instead of a chemical spermicidal gel. So, you can either add some in the dome before use, or let the diaphragm soak up some honey by storing it in a jar of honey. [If you don't add any honey you'll just have a regular diaphragm -- a barrier method -- without any spermicide.]

Your concern is that by adding honey to the dome you could increase your risk of infection. It's certainly a possibility, and it also depends a lot on the individual patient.

That having been said, keep in mind that I don't have any clinical experience with this method. I haven't even heard of it been used in the U.S., and there are simply no studies in the literature. So the best I can do is to offer an informed guess, but a guess nonetheless.

Since Dr. Bond looks to be the clinical expert on the honey cap I would certainly defer to her as the last word on proper use.

If you can confirm with her that she does not recommend adding honey to the dome, then don't.

Anon @ 3:47 PM,

I know, it can get a bit confusing since Blogger only posts the time, but not the date, of the comment. [Yours was posted today, 2/23/09.]

In any case, maybe you could help us out.

I'd he happy to interview Dr. Bond and put up a detailed post on how to use the honey cap.

Would it be possible for you to email me Dr. Bond's email so that I may contact her directly?


At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is 'Anonymous' of 2/23/09 at 3.47.

Dame Dr Shirley Bond's telephone numbers are Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 0023 or: +44 (0)20 7223 5049 - I don't know whether she has e-mail.

There is certainly confusion about the reason for soaking the cap in honey and whether to apply honey to the dome or not. As I have said, I've been using the honeycaps supplied by Dr Bond for 20 years and they come with a leaflet (as well as Dr Bond's advice).

I can confirm that both the leaflet and Dr Bond say that you do not need to apply honey to the dome - the cap is IMPREGNATED with honey which acts as a natural spermicide. Since the advice states that you can leave it in for several days at a time and do not need to do anything prior to intercourse (provided it is already inserted correctly), it is clear that it does not need to have honey applied to act as a spermicide. It states "The honey cap may be inserted at any time convenient to you. This may be immediately prior to having intercourse or it may be some hours or even a day or so before." However, it also states that although you do not need to store the honeycap in honey, if you do so, whenever you remove it from the honey, "rinse it gently in cold water, but do not wash off all the honey before inserting it". However, it is made clear that placing the honeycap in honey does NOT revive or increase the honey impregnated in the honeycap, it is for disinfecting and cleansing it. The honey impregnated in the honeycap has an approximate lifespan of 12 months.

In addition, both the leaflet and Dr Bond emphatically specify that if you use any kind of spermicide with the honeycap, you could damage the honeycap and destroy its effectiveness. Most UK GPs do not know about the honeycap (because it comes from the US)and my own GP once mistakenly told me I needed to use a spermicide with it. Fortunately, I confirmed with Dr Bond that I must NOT.

The comment made above "If you don't add any honey you'll just have a regular diaphragm -- a barrier method -- without any spermicide" sounds like something an uninformed UK GP would agree with - mistakenly. It is not true!

I hope this helps.

At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous of 3.47pm 2/23/09... How come my long comment answering questions and saying how to contact Dr Bond has not been posted? I've tried 4 times in last week, but it doesn't come up... I have re-read it several times and cannot find any reason why it might have been rejected by the blog author...? I'd be grateful if you could let me know? Thanks

At 6:03 PM, Blogger ema said...

Anon at/of 3:47 PM,

Do you mean the one at 12:05 PM with phone numbers (thank you!), or did you send another? [The 12:05 PM came in on 3/2/09.]

In any case, your comment clarified something for me. Based on this the cap is IMPREGNATED with honey which acts as a natural spermicide it seems we're taking about a specialty item made available by Dr. Bond's office vs. just a regular diaphragm.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been using the Honey Cap for about 15 years - it's wonderful and I simply cannot understand why it's not more widely supplied. There is a serious error in judgement by GPs pushing coils and hormones. Total madness.

Anyway, I wanted to ask if anyone knows if it is a good or bad idea to store it in Manuka honey?? Presumably this would help with keeping bacteria and yeasts at bay? Any ideas?

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regards to why your average GP isn't advising about this method, pretty simple really, lack of evidence. That doesn't mean it doesn't work, far from it, more likely there's no financial incentive for anyone to bother to run expensive trials. GPs aren't going to recommend any treatment without sound evidence for it, that would be indefensible. It already costs £5.5K/year to insure a GP, someone gets pregnant using this method and the GP is going to say what? 'I read it on the net somewhere and thought it sounded like a good idea'. Hello GMC.

At 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you all so much ladies for this very informative blog and comments. I have just given birth to my 6th child, I have been toying with the idea of the honeycap for a few years now but could find no info about it online. I have used natural fertility awareness for years with some success, but got pregnant last time whilst using this method.I put the failure of this down to the fact that I have so many children it can be difficult at times to be toally aware of your body !! I am going to continue for a while with condoms until my weight settles and cervix back to normal. I will let you all know ina few months how the fitting goes and how i get on.

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it this blog is still active. However, I would like to say my wife became pregnant using this contraceptive - after about 5 years. I suggested she informed Dame Dr Shirley Bond, but she would not and would not say why. This may be unusual but there still may be a significant unreported failure rate.


At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can sometimes give you very bad thrush....

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the US? Where can we get information here?! I've never once heard of this and now am curious.

At 2:57 AM, Blogger elizabethcan said...

All this info from 2007 and here I am 7 years later and there's practically no information on how to obtain a honeycap. I am so surprised nothing more has been done and barely any information can be found, especially regarding any of this happening in the USA.

I am also surprised that no one in the USA has taken to selling them with no guarantee, and there is no talk on HOW they are so called "infused" with honey (as people say it is "kept in honey for a week" but then ALSO say that "you using honey as a contraceptive won't work".) Are they using the normal diaphragm/cap? What is it made of? Are they purchasing them pre-infused? How is none of this info public?

So many questions. And for once, the Internet has failed me. Maybe in another 7 years....


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