A diaphragm is a dome-shaped bowl made of thin, flexible silicone that sits over
the part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. It covers the cervix so sperm can't
get in and fertilize an egg.
How Does a Diaphragm Work?
A diaphragm keeps sperm from entering the uterus by covering the cervix. For added
is put into the bowl of the diaphragm and along its edges before it's inserted. The
diaphragm is placed high into the vagina so it covers the cervix.
The diaphragm can be put in up to 2 hours before having sex, and must be left in
place at least 6 hours after sex. The diaphragm should not stay in longer than 24
hours. More spermicide must be used each time a young woman has sex while wearing
How Well Does a Diaphragm Work?
Over the course of a year, 12 out of 100 typical couples who use the diaphragm
with spermicide will have an accidental pregnancy.
How well the diaphragm works depends on:
how well it fits
whether a couple uses it every time they have sex
whether spermicide is used appropriately
A diaphragm also needs to be cared for. After each use, it must be washed (with
mild soap and water), rinsed, and air dried, then stored in its case. Baby powder
and oil-based lubricants (such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly, or baby oil) should
not be put on the diaphragm. Other vaginal creams, such as yeast
infection medicines, also can damage the diaphragm.
A diaphragm should be replaced at least every 2 years. It should be checked regularly
for holes or weak spots, and replaced as needed.
Does a Diaphragm Help Prevent STDs?
No. The diaphragm does not protect against STDs.
Couples having sex must always use condoms
along with the diaphragm to protect against STDs.
Abstinence (not having
sex) is the only method that always prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Are There Any Problems With a Diaphragm?
Most young women who use a diaphragm have no problems with it. But possible side
from the spermicide, irritation of the vagina and surrounding skin or an allergic
strong odors or vaginal discharge if the diaphragm is left in too long
an allergic raction to the material in the diaphragm (this is rare)
A diaphragm may be a good option for a young woman who can take responsibility
for protection before having sex. With a diaphragm, she must always have a supply
The diaphragm isn't a good choice for anyone who is uncomfortable or uneasy with
the thought of reaching into her vagina. And it may not be right for those with some
medical conditions, such as frequent
urinary tract infections. The diaphragm should not be used when a young woman
has her period.
Where Are Diaphragms Available?
A doctor or
must fit a girl for a diaphragm. During a pelvic
exam, the doctor or NP will find the right size diaphragm and teach her how to insert and remove it. A diaphragm that's inserted incorrectly
or doesn't fit well can lead to pregnancy.
During an annual exam, the doctor or nurse will make sure the diaphragm still fits
correctly. It may not fit if a girl has gained or lost weight, had a baby, had an
abortion, or was fitted when she was a virgin and she is now having sex. A woman who
has had any of these changes should have her doctor check the fit of the diaphragm
right away rather than wait until her annual exam.
How Much Does a Diaphragm Cost?
Costs can range from $0 to about $250 for the diaphragm and the office visit. Many
plans cover the costs, and family planning clinics (such as Planned Parenthood) may
charge less. Also, the cost of spermicide is about $0.50 to $1.50 per use.
A diaphragm should be replaced every 2 years.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
A woman using a diaphragm should call the doctor if she:
might be pregnant
has a change in the smell or color of vaginal discharge
has signs of a UTI, such as burning with peeing or feeling the need to pee often
has unexplained fever or chills
has belly or pelvic pain
has pain during sex
has signs of toxic shock syndrome, such as a sunburn-like rash, achiness, fever,
diarrhea, vomiting, or dizziness