A diaphragm is a type of contraception, or birth control. It’s a dome-shaped
device made out of latex or silicone, with a flexible rim. You can insert it
into your vagina to help prevent pregnancy. It provides a physical barrier that
blocks sperm from passing through your cervix into your uterus. It’s been used
as a birth control method in the United States since the early 1900s. It was
very popular before the introduction of birth control pills.
A diaphragm is larger than a cervical cap,
another type of contraceptive device. A cervical cap is a small silicone cup
that helps prevent pregnancy by covering the opening to your uterus.
How does a diaphragm work?
When it’s inserted properly, a diaphragm blocks sperm from traveling through
your cervix during sex. You should use your diaphragm in conjunction with
spermicide, a substance that helps to stop and kill sperm. If sperm can’t reach
your uterus and fallopian tubes, it can’t fertilize any of your eggs. If none
of your eggs are fertilized, pregnancy can’t occur.
do I use a diaphragm?
If you’re interested in getting a diaphragm, make an appointment with your
doctor. They can help you decide if it’s the right birth control choice for
Your doctor will need to conduct a pelvic exam to learn what size of
diaphragm fits you best. They will also need to give you a prescription for
You can insert your diaphragm up to six hours before intercourse. Follow
these steps to insert it:
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Put spermicide in the cup of your diaphragm, and
spread some more around the rim.
- With one hand, separate your vaginal lips. With
the other hand, fold your diaphragm in half, keeping the spermicide in the
- Push your diaphragm as far up and back into your
vagina as possible. Then tuck the interior rim of your diaphragm behind your
- Let your diaphragm unfold inside of your vagina.
Make sure it’s covering your cervix.
Don’t remove your diaphragm until at least six hours after you have sex.
This will give the spermicide time to immobilize any remaining sperm. Don’t
leave your diaphragm in for longer than 24 hours.
If you have sex more than once in a 24-hour period, add more spermicide to
your diaphragm before intercourse. You should also check to make sure your
diaphragm is still in place before having sex again.
To remove your diaphragm:
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Hook the rim of your diaphragm with a finger to
break the seal.
- Pull your diaphragm down and out.
- Wash your diaphragm with soap and water
- Let it air dry.
Never use oil-based lubricants with your diaphragm, as they can damage the silicone.
It’s also important to check your diaphragm for damage on a regular basis. It
may be easier to see damage if you hold your diaphragm up to a light. Use a
different method of birth control if your diaphragm has any weak spots,
wrinkles, or holes.
effective is a diaphragm?
The effectiveness of a diaphragm depends on whether you use it correctly.
According to Planned
Parenthood, the failure rate is 6 percent for women who always use it as
directed and 12 percent for women who don’t always use it properly. That means
about six to 12 women out of 100 of who use a diaphragm as their sole method of
birth control get pregnant each year.
You can increase the effectiveness of your diaphragm by checking its placement
before intercourse and always using spermicide with it. A properly sized
diaphragm is also important for effectiveness. You may need to get a new
diaphragm if you:
- have a baby
- have a miscarriage
- gain or lose 20 percent or more of your body weight
your partner uses a condom or pulls out before ejaculating it will further
reduce your risk of accidental pregnancy.
are the benefits of using a diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a convenient birth control choice for many women, and it
has a number of advantages. For example, it:
- is easier to insert than a cervical cap
- is unlikely to be felt by you or your partner during sex
- can be inserted hours before sex, so you don’t need to
- can be carried around discretely in a purse or bag
- doesn’t interfere with your natural hormones
- can be used while you’re breastfeeding
A diaphragm is a convenient and effective birth control option for many
women. Most women can use one without problems. Serious side effects are rare,
but some women develop urinary tract infections, vaginal irritation, or other
adverse reactions after using a diaphragm with spermicide. Your doctor can help
you understand the potential risks and benefits of this birth control option.
While a diaphragm can help prevent pregnancy, it won’t protect you against sexually
transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV. To help stop the
spread of STIs, use condoms during intercourse.