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The Diaphragm: How Does This Type Of Contraception Work?

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Jul 25, 2022

    The Diaphragm: How Does This Type Of Contraception Work?

    The diaphragm is a small, reusable dome-like birth control for women. It is inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from any direct contact with the uterus, ultimately preventing pregnancy. While it is highly effective when used with spermicide, it cannot prevent any sexually transmitted infections or STIs.

    What’s a Diaphragm?

    This type of contraception functions as a barrier for your uterus and covers the cervix in order to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg.  A few of the reasons why it is used is because of the following:

    • It lets you become fertile on time without delays
    • It can be used as an alternative contraceptive because of its immediate usability after inserting
    • Safe to be used while breastfeeding six weeks after the pregnancy
    • It can be inserted around 6 hours before intercourse and be left for 24 hours if not in use
    • Has little to no side effects for most people

    How the Diaphragm Is Used

    If using a diaphragm piques your or your partner’s interest, you may want to discuss it with a gynecologist for a prescription. You may also ask for a demonstration or advice from a healthcare professional on how to properly insert it.

    Before Putting It In…

    Practice inserting the diaphragm in before intercourse. Wash your hands first to ensure cleanliness. You may also use a male condom as a backup the first few times it is used.

    Check on your diaphragm’s condition. Look for any possible holes or tears just in case. You may also check if it has been overused and may no longer fit right if ever you have a had a diaphragm in the past.

    How To Put It In

    Inserting the diaphragm is quite similar to how menstrual cups and tampons are put in the vagina. Positions that have the legs opened wide such as lying down, squatting, or even just having one leg up while standing will allow for easier insertion.

    Follow these steps on how to properly put the diaphragm in:

    1. Apply spermicide to the diaphragm. Using a teaspoonful, spread the spermicide from the dome to the rim of the contraceptive. Do not use oil-based creams or petroleum jelly because it may make the product weak and create tiny holes. Remember to use spermicide that is not past its expiry date since it may not be as effective.
    2.  Fold the diaphragm in half. While it is held in one hand, it must be folded with the dome shape facing downwards. The other hand must be used to hold the vagina wide.
    3. Aim for the tailbone. As you try to insert the diaphragm in, try to aim towards the tailbone. Once it is inside, it must be pushed deep into the vagina.
    4. Wrap the front rim. Wrap the front rim behind the pubic bone with a finger. Try to angle it towards the belly button.
    5. Check if you can feel any part of your cervix. To check if it has been inserted correctly, use your fingers to feel if a part of your cervix can be felt. A well-placed diaphragm will stay put even if you do physical movements like walk or run.

    How To Take It Out

    Six hours after intercourse, do the following steps:

    1. Wash your hands before letting your fingers make contact with the diaphragm. Use a position where your legs are open wide like lying down, squatting, or even just having one leg up while standing.
    2. Using your index finger, hook over the rim of the diaphragm to pull it out.
    3. Take the contraceptive out gently to avoid any tears or holes in the diaphragm.

    Make sure to check for possible holes and cleanse the diaphragm properly after taking it out in order to effectively use it in the future.

    Risks of Using a Diaphragm

    While the diaphragm boasts reusability and efficacy, it may not be appropriate for certain people. It is important to consider the following factors when thinking about using one:

    • Silicone or spermicide allergy
    • If you or your partner has HIV/AIDS or any STI
    • A high possibility of pregnancy especially when you are below 30 years old, have regular intercourse or have experienced difficulty using alternative barrier method contraception like the diaphragm
    • Vaginal infections
    • Frequent urinary tract infections or UTI
    • Past experience with toxic shock syndrome

    The diaphragm cannot protect against STIs. It is also possible for the woman to get pregnant with improper use of the contraceptive. Pregnancy might be possible if:

    • Spermicide was not used or applied before intercourse
    • The diaphragm is only used sometimes during intercourse
    • It gets misplaced from the cervix during intercourse
    • The diaphragm is removed within 6 hours after intercourse

     The use of spermicide can also have its own adverse effects on certain people. A few risks include the following:

    • Damages the lining of the vagina
    • Causes vaginal irritation or infection
    • Increases risk of contracting STIs

    Key Takeaways

    The diaphragm acts as a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the female reproductive tract. It should be inspected and properly placed to ensure efficiency, so that accidental pregnancy will not occur. When used and taken care of right, it can be reused in the future. It is important to know if the diaphragm is the right contraceptive for you by talking to a gynecologist to discuss its possible risks. 

    Learn more about Contraception here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Jul 25, 2022

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