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Diaphragms & Cervical Caps

The diaphragm can be used by most women without any kind of inconvenience or discomfort. It is a good option for women:

  • who cannot take the Pill for some reason
  • women who dislike the idea of hormonal contraception
  • who are older
  • who are in committed relationships

The diaphragm is a soft, thin rubber cup that is placed in the vagina before intercourse. It is a barrier method of contraception with minimal side effects. The diaphragm looks like a little hat without a brim. It is elastic and and can be folded so that it goes into the vagina easily.

Caps and diaphragms act as a contraceptive by:

  • forming a barrier across the neck of the womb preventing the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg
  • covering the opening to the uterus and holding contraceptive cream or jelly which destroys sperm
  • creating a protective seal using spermicidal cream or jelly around the cervix trapping and immobilizing any sperm that make it past that seal (spermicidal cream or jelly is essential when using a diaphragm to be effective in preventing pregnancy)

If you are trying to find a contraceptive cap or diaphragm click here.

A medical examination by your doctor or family planning clinic is needed so that the right-sized cap or diaphragm can be chosen as a good fit is essential. However, it is necessary that it be inserted for the first time in the company of your doctor or family planning nurse to ensure correct usage. This is done during a pelvic examination and takes only a few minutes. You will also need to see your doctor if your weight changes by more than 3kg either way or if you resume wearing a diaphragm after a pregnancy to see if the size is still correct.

If the diaphragm does not suit your particular vaginal shape an alternative can be the closely related contraceptive cap which is also a good method. It is smaller and fits over your cervix, so you have to be very sure that you can find your own cervix and fit the cap over it.

How To Use
  • smear a little spermicide on to the diaphragm and around the rim to make insertion easier
  • squeeze the diaphragm into a boat shape
  • open the lips of the vagina with one hand and insert it similarly to a sanitary tampon
  • the diaphragm is placed high up in the vagina so that it covers the cervix
  • when the rim rests behind the pubic bone at the front and the dome covers the cervix at the back it is in place and cannot be felt by either the woman or the man during intercourse

Before sexual intercourse the diaphragm with cream or jelly is inserted into vagina and must be left in place at least 6 hours after intercourse but not longer than 24 hours.

Care of Diaphragm

Once you have your diaphragm it is important that proper care be taken so that in remains in good condition.

  • do not use cold cream, Vaseline or other oily substances as a diaphragm lubricant as these may be harmful to the diaphragm
  • wash carefully after use with a mild soap
  • do not use perfumed soaps containing cold cream or detergents as the elements in these soaps may have a harmful effect on the latex rubber diaphragm
  • rinse with clean water
  • dry carefully
  • do not allow the diaphragm to air dry
  • dust the diaphragm lightly with cornstarch and replace it in the container
  • do not use any type of body powder, baby powder, flour or face powder as they may contain elements that could affect the latex rubber diaphragm
  • if your diaphragm perishes or gets damaged in any way get a replacement immediately

This combination of diaphragm or cap used with a spermicide has been found to have a 95% effectiveness rate. It is important to keep in mind that the spermicide will be effective for about only three hours. More spermicide is needed if you have intercourse after the diaphragm or cap has been in place for three hours.

Some diaphragms available are:

  • Dumas Vault cap
  • Prentif Cavity Rim
  • Vimule
AdvantagesDisadvantages
protection against STD's including HIVallergic reaction to latex or lubricant (a polyurethane type is also available for people allergic to latex)
low health riskmay interrupt foreplay
easily accessibledulls sensation (KY jelly placed on the inside of the tip improves feeling)
latex used with spermicide blocks and may kill sperm and STD'sallergic reaction to spermicidal
can protect against infection, herpes and genital wartsirritation from condoms
effective when used with other contraceptives oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline can make holes in latex condoms
Cervical Cap*

The cervical cap works much the same way as the diaphragm with similar effectiveness rates. A small latex cap is inserted before intercourse fitting over the cervix to act as a barrier to semen. The cap cannot be pushed into the uterus, even though it is smaller than a diaphragm. Spermicide inside the cap is held against the cervix destroying any sperm that make it past the barrier (see information on Diaphragms above).

*Only available on prescription in the US

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