What is a Diaphragm Birth Control? How Does it Work?

Barrier means of contraception are popular among people of different ages. They do not allow sperm to get into the woman’s ovaries, thereby preventing pregnancy. The most known and commonly available are the condom and the vaginal diaphragm birth control. These methods of contraception protect not only against unwanted pregnancy but also against a lot of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

What is the Diaphragm Birth Control? How Does a Diaphragm Look Like?

The vaginal diaphragm is a barrier method of female contraception invented in the 19th century. It gained the greatest popularity in the second half of the 20th century. A diaphragm is a shallow dome-shaped cup with a flexible rim made of silicone or latex. The dome of the diaphragm covers the cervix. Located in the vagina, the diaphragm is a mechanical obstacle to sperm – it cannot get into the uterus. There are several types of diaphragms (flat, ring-shaped, curved) in various sizes.

The diaphragm should be inserted into the vagina just before sexual contact. The effectiveness of this birth control means reaches 85-90%. It all depends on strict observance of the rules of use.

Types of Diaphragms

There are several types of diaphragms of different sizes. The sizes are determined by the diameter of the rim in millimeters. Diaphragms are available in diameters from 50 mm to 105 mm (about 2–4 inches).

  • A diaphragm with a flat spring in the rim can only be used by young women who have not yet become mothers. This diaphragm is easy enough to use because of its structure, so its insertion and extraction don’t require special skills.
  • A diaphragm with a spiral spring in the rim. The size of this diaphragm is from 50 to 95 mm. Such a contraceptive is inserted into the vagina with the help of plastic forceps.
  • A diaphragm with an arcing spring and a diaphragm with a wide web are designed for use in conjunction with spermicides since there is a specific place on the rim to keep the drug in the diaphragm.

The optimal type and size of the diaphragm for a woman is selected by a doctor. Before this, a woman must pass a gynecological examination to determine the features of her genitals’ structure. It is necessary to know that after childbirth or after any surgical intervention a woman must go through a gynecological examination again, since the genitals may undergo some changes.

How to Use a Diaphragm?

The diaphragm should be inserted into the vagina several hours before sexual contact.

How to Insert a Diaphragm?

Before use, wash your hands and cover each side of the diaphragm with a spermicide.

Then press the rim with your thumb and index finger. The dome is inserted into the vagina in such a way that the cervix is ​​completely covered.

The arrangement is considered correct if you don’t feel the diaphragm inside. Therefore, a woman will have to choose a convenient pose before the first insertion, so that in subsequent times it will take less time.

The diaphragm can be inserted 3 hours before sex maximum. If the sexual contact occurs more than 3 hours later it must be removed and spermicide added.

If you feel discomfort after the insertion of the diaphragm you need to remove it. Then try to re-insert it again adding a little spermicide.


Extraction of a Diaphragm

It’s very easy to pull the diaphragm out of the vagina.

The diaphragm should remain inside for at least 6 hours after the sexual contact. The maximum time is 24 hours.

At the end of this time, carefully remove the diaphragm and rinse it with warm water and a soft (odorless) soap. Leave until it is completely dry.

There is usually a small container in the kit where a vaginal diaphragm is placed after every insertion. Keep it in a cool, dry place.

How to Take Care of a Diaphragm?

In addition to the fact that it needs to be washed with soft soap after each sexual contact, there are a few more recommendations for care:

  • Do not boil the vaginal diaphragm.
  • You cannot lubricate it with oil based products, talc, disinfectants, and detergents (they destroy the latex cover).
  • Over time, the diaphragm can lose its color. It’s okay because it does not affect its contraceptive properties.
  • Before the use, always check the diaphragm for external damage.

The Advantages of Using Diaphragm Birth Control

  • Easy enough to use
  • Multiple insertions
  • Can be used during breastfeeding
  • A reliable remedy against venereal diseases
  • It reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer
  • Diaphragm excludes the use of hormonal pills if sexual intimacy is infrequent
  • It doesn’t cause serious health risks and doesn’t have strong side-effects
  • A woman may not think about contraception in the breaks between sexual contacts
  • Can be used 3 months after childbirth

The Disadvantages of the Diaphragm

  • Relatively low contraceptive effectiveness
  • Gynecological examination is mandatory
  • Some inconveniences while inserting into the vagina
  • Simultaneous use of spermicides is necessary
  • Is not 100% effective (however, all other types of contraception aren’t, either)
  • Provides only limited protection against sexually transmitted diseases
  • For many, it takes a long time to insert the diaphragm into the vagina, since its introduction requires the possession of certain skills
  • Unplanned sexual contact can be interrupted due to the need to insert a diaphragm because even an advanced user needs at least 5 minutes to insert it
  • Cystitis (the inflammation of the bladder) may occur in some women who use the diaphragm;
  • Latex and spermicides can cause irritation of skin and mucous membrane
  • If a woman loses or gains up to 7 lb. or more she needs to go to the doctor again because she may need a different size of a diaphragm

Contraindications For The Use of a Diaphragm Birth Control

  • For women who must not get pregnant, especially because of medical reasons, it’s better to use modern methods of hormonal and intrauterine contraception. Their contraceptive effect tends to be 100%
  • The first three months after childbirth
  • Pain in the perineum between sexual contacts
  • Allergic reactions to the material. In this case, it is better to abandon the methods of barrier contraception, since almost all the contraceptives in this group contain latex
  • Cervix disease
  • Infectious diseases of the urogenital system, their backsets
  • Anomalies in the anatomical structure of the genitals
  • Toxic shock syndrome in medical history (doctors recommend not to risk)
  • Menstruation
  • Vaginal candidiasis (thrush)

Therefore, vaginal diaphragms are recommended for women who have a lower risk of pregnancy (late reproductive period), with rare sexual contacts, as a temporary contraceptive (between the use of the hormonal contraceptives), and in combination with spermicides.

In Conclusion, Let’s Sum Everything Up

  • The vaginal diaphragm as a method of contraception gives an efficiency of around 90% with proper use
  • The application requires mandatory use of spermicides
  • Don’t remove the diaphragm immediately after sexual contact, wait for 6-24 hours
  • It is necessary to add spermicides between sexual acts
  • Women can use the diaphragm multiple times. After the removal, it must be thoroughly rinsed and put in a special case that goes with the diaphragm. Keep it in a cool place
  • It shouldn’t be used if there are diseases of the cervix
  • It is necessary to consult a specialist to select the right size