Contraceptive Diaphragm
Popular Method Of Birth Control





What Is A Diaphragm?
How Effective Is It?
How Do I Buy A Diaphragm?
How Often Can I Use A Diaphragm?
When Is It Not Suitable?
How To Use A Diaphragm
How Much Does It Cost?
Pros And Cons

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Birth Control Methods
What Is A Diaphragm?

It is popular reusable method of birth control that is used to prevent pregnancy. Made of silicone rubber, a diaphragm is shaped like a shallow cup and is inserted by the woman into the vagina to cover the cervix before sexual intercourse. A spermicide jelly is spread around the rim of the diaphragm before it is inserted. After intercourse the device is left in place for 6 hours and then removed, washed and stored until next use.

Although the diaphragm will act as a barrier, preventing sperm from entering womb through the cervix - it is not particularly effective as a mechanical barrier alone - sperm can still enter around the edges. Rather it keeps spermicide in place over the cervix so that sperm are killed before they can travel any further. It should be mentioned that unlike condoms or female condoms, diaphragms do not reduce your risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

How Effective Is It?

The failure rate, if used correctly, is about 6 percent but in reality the failure rate is nearer 18 percent. To reduce the risk:

• Some couples use a condom on the woman's most fertile days (which is about mid cycle).
• Ensure you use the spermicide recommended with your brand of diaphragm.
• Ensure it covers your cervix before each time you have intercourse.

How Do I Buy A Diaphragm?

Diaphragms require a doctor's prescription. The device needs to be fitted to make sure it is large enough to allow expansion of the vagina when it becomes engorged (excited) during sexual intercourse but not so large that it is uncomfortable when the vagina returns to normal size. It should also be checked annually by your doctor, and will need to be refitted after childbirth, abortion or weight loss or weight gain of 10 pounds or over.

How Often Can I Use A Diaphragm?

If you are careful with your diaphragm it can last up to 2 years. After intercourse it should be left in place for 6 hours (some brands recommend 8 hours) but never longer than 24 hours. If you have sex again within the 6 hours, additional spermicide should be inserted with an applicator. A diaphragm should not be inserted more than 2 hours before intercourse because the spermicide is only effective for up to 8 hours. Given all these requirements, it is no wonder the failure rate is 18 percent!

When Is It Not Suitable?

It may not be suitable if you:

• Gave birth within the past 6 weeks, see our postpartum guide.
• Or your partner is allergic to spermicide or silicone.
• Ever suffered toxic shock syndrome.
• Recently had surgery on your cervix.
• Recently had an abortion procedure after the first trimester.
• Are not comfortable inserting objects into your vagina.
• Are a virgin or only recently first started having intercourse. Wait until the area has loosened a little more.

How To Use A Diaphragm

1. Wash your hands.
2. Place a tablespoon of spermicide in the dome and spread it around the rim (a).
3. Squeeze the diaphragm with one hand (b).
4. Stand with one foot on a chair or squat. Separate the lips of your vulva with one hand. Then slide the diaphragm (spermicide up) as far up into your vagina as possible (c). Tuck the edges behind the pubic bone where it should cover the cervix (d). If you have problems inserting it, a plastic inserter is available with some brands.

Removing It

1. It should be left inside for 6 to 8 hours after intercourse, follow the instructions on your chosen brand.
2. Wash your hands, and then insert your finger back up into the vagina.
3. Hook a finger over the rim of the diaphragm and pull it out.

Caring For Your Diaphragm

1. After use wash it is warm soapy water and dry.
2. Store it in a container out direct sunlight.
3. Check it regularly for holes and tears by filling it with water or holding it up to the light.
4. It should last about 2 years with regular care.

How Much Does It Cost?

Your doctor needs to prescribe and fit your diaphragm. An examination and fitting can cost anywhere between $50 and $200. The diaphragm costs between $15 and $75 and spermicide creams or jellies cost between $8 and $17 for a kit.

Brand Names

The ALL-FLEX Arcing Spring Diaphragm made by Ortho pharmaceuticals. Sizes range from 55mm to 105mm in 5mm increments.
The ORTHO Coil Spring Diaphragm made by Ortho pharmaceuticals. Sizes 50mm to 105mm in 5mm increments.
The ORTHO-WHITE Flat Spring Diaphragm made by Ortho pharmaceuticals. Sizes from 55mm to 105mm in 5mm increments.
The WIDE-SEAL Arcing Diaphragm made by Milex. Sizes from 60mm to 95mm in 5mm increments.
The WIDE-SEAL Omniflex coil Diaphragm. Sizes from 60mm to 95mm in 5mm increments.
The KORO-FLEX Arcing Spring Diaphragm distributed by Schmid Laboratories. Sizes from 60mm to 95mm in 5mm increments.
The KOROMEX Coil Spring Diaphragm distributed by Schmid Laboratories. Sizes from 50mm to 95mm in 5mm increments.

Pros: Benefits Of Diaphragms

• Works on a need-only-basis: unlike oral contraceptives you do not need to take it everyday.
• It has no effect on your natural hormones, unlike the Pill, birth control injections, IUD device or contraceptive implant.
• It is immediately effective and reversible.
• It can be inserted hours before intercourse so there is no interruption of sexual play.
• Can be used during menstruation, both as a contraceptive and to collect menstrual blood during intercourse.

Cons: Disadvantages

• Can be difficult to insert.
• May be displaced by certain sexual positions (usually where the woman is on top) or heavy thrusting.
• Some women or their partners are allergic to the rubber in the diaphragm or the spermicide. Switching brands may sort this.
• For oral sex, the spermicide may test unpleasant.
• It does not offer any protection against STIs (STD prevention).
• It may irritate the urethra causing urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is more common where the diaphragm is not fitted properly and is too large.

When To See Your Doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience any of the following:

• Irregular bleeding or spotting.
• Unusual vaginal discharge.
• Redness or swelling of the vulva or vagina.
• Irritation of the genital area.
• The diaphragm is uncomfortable when inserted.
• You experience signs of a UTI - burning sensation when urinating.

History Lesson

Devices like diaphragms have been used by women for hundreds of years. In the 1700s women used to place half a squeezed lemon into the vagina to cover the cervix. Presumably the acidity of the lemon helped to kill sperm. The modern diaphragm was invented in the 19th century and was widely used in the first part of the 20th century. It was briefly knocked off the top-seller list in the 1960s with the advent of the Pill and IUD devices, but it has been regaining in popularity again - primarily because its disadvantages are considered less serious (particularly by women in monogamous relationships) than hormone birth control options.

  Related Articles on Contraceptives

For more advice on sexual health, see the following:

Symptoms of STDs: List of the most common signs.
Recommended health screenings for women: Females of all ages.
Male contraception: Letting him do the work!

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