A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped rubber disk with a flexible rim that fits within the vagina and covers the cervix so sperm can't reach the uterus. This is a barrier birth-control method used with spermicide.
How is it Used?
- The diaphragm must be covered with spermicide and placed within the vagina to cover the cervix, ideally well before intercourse.
- The diaphragm blocks the cervix and prevents the sperm from entering the uterus. The spermicide immobilizes and kills the sperm, making it unable to fertilize an egg.
- The diaphragm may be left in place for 24 hours, but more spermicide must be inserted every two hours, or every time sexual intercourse is repeated.
- The diaphragm must be left in place for six hours after sexual intercourse.
Does It Protect Against STIs?
STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. STI risk varies depending on how you choose to protect yourself and your partner during sexual or intimate activities.
The diaphragm protects against certain STIs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, but does not protect against others, such as HIV and herpes.
Does It Protect Against Pregnancy?
Yes. The chances of getting pregnant while using a diaphragm are:
- Typical use: 20 percent
- Perfect use: 9 percent
Advantages and Disadvantages
- The diaphragm is often not felt by either partner during sex.
- The diaphragm is easier for females to learn to insert and remove than a similar contraceptive device, the cervical cap.
- It needs to be inserted ahead of time, not at the last minute.
- If the diaphragm is left inside the vagina for more than one day (24 hours), the female runs the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a serious bacterial infection.
- Mild allergic reactions to the rubber or spermicide occasionally occur.
Things to Remember
- Diaphragms must be initially fitted by clinicians and then purchased by prescription from a drugstore or clinic.
- Diaphragms are more expensive than pills initially, but this is a one-time cost.
- Cost of purchase is covered by Medicaid.
Last Reviewed: January 2019