The diaphragm is a barrier method of
birth control. It is a round, dome-shaped device made
of rubber that has a firm, flexible rim. It fits inside a woman's vagina and
cervix. It should always be used with a sperm-killing
cream or jelly (spermicide). There are different types of diaphragms:
The flat-spring and coil-spring types can be used
with an inserter.
The arcing-spring type is easy to insert with the
A woman inserts her diaphragm no sooner than 6 hours
before having sexual intercourse. To be effective, it must be used with a
spermicide. The diaphragm must be left in place for 6 hours after intercourse
and can be left in place up to 24 hours.
The type of diaphragm that works
best for you will depend on your vaginal muscle tone and the shape of your
pelvis. Diaphragms come in different sizes, so you must visit a health
professional to be fitted and get a prescription for the right size and type of
diaphragm. At this visit, you will be taught
how to use and care for the diaphragm. A return visit with the diaphragm
already in place is usually needed to be certain that you are using it
You will need to be refitted for the right size of
Pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth can change
the size of the cervix or vagina.
Major weight gain or loss.
A small weight gain or loss or a therapeutic abortion
usually does not require a new diaphragm size.
diaphragm every 1 to 2 years to avoid an unintended pregnancy. With time and
repeated use, small holes can form in the rubber. Rubber can also weaken over
time and tear more easily.
Effectiveness in preventing pregnancy
the diaphragm user failure rate is 16%. This means that 16 women in 100 become
pregnant in the first year of typical use. Not using the diaphragm with every
act of intercourse is the most common reason for failure. The "perfect use"
failure rate is 6%, with a pregnancy in 6 of every 100 women who carefully use
the diaphragm every time they have sex.1
Effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Women who use
diaphragms may get more bladder infections (urinary tract infections, or UTIs). This is probably because the rim of the diaphragm
presses on the
urethra and may irritate it. A woman who gets frequent
UTIs may need a smaller diaphragm or may prefer not to use the
Some people are embarrassed to use this method or feel
the method interrupts foreplay or intercourse.
A couple must be
comfortable with using the diaphragm and be prepared to use it every time they
A diaphragm can't be used if either person is allergic to
It is important to check your diaphragm for any cracks,
holes, or other damage that would reduce its effectiveness. Do not use any
petroleum-based vaginal creams, oils, or ointments, which can damage the
rubber. But water-based personal lubricants, such as Astroglide and K-Y Jelly,
are safe to use.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.