Diaphragms are small latex dome-shaped cups with flexible rims that cover the cervix. There are many different shapes and sizes of diaphragms. You have to go to a doctor’s office to get sized for a diaphragm. You will need to be resized after giving birth, an abortion or miscarriage, a 20% change in weight, or abdominal surgery.
Diaphragms are held in place by the pubic bone and the posterior fornix. This distance is different in different women, which is why you need to be individually fitted.
Diaphragms prevent pregnancy by covering the cervix, which means that the sperm cannot reach the egg. It is recommended that you use spermicide with a diaphragm.
Diaphragms can be inserted up to twenty four hours ahead of intercourse. They need to remain in place for eight hours following intercourse. Squeeze the diaphragm into an oval (push down on the dimple) and insert it as far back into your vagina as possible. Make sure that it is tucked behind the pubic bone. Some diaphragms have special inserters to use.
You cannot use oil-based lubricants with diaphragms. See our page on lubricants to find an appropriate water- or silicone-based product.
Diaphragms are good to use for women who cannot take hormones, or women who cannot remember to take their pills. It can be inserted before sex, so it does not affect the spontaneity. Diaphragms cannot be used for six weeks after childbirth. See who can use diaphragms, caps, and shields for more information.
Diaphragms do not protect again sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
See our pages about comparing prescription barrier methods, the advantages and disadvantages of prescription barrier methods, how to wash diaphragms, caps, and shields, and the risks of prescription barrier methods for more information.
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