Sex Ed 102: Everything You Need To Know About Diaphragms


As you all know I’m a big supporter of safe sex!  You know, the kind that leaves you free of worries about an unintended pregnancy or possible transmission of an STD. As such, I hope this page gives you the insight you need to help find a method of protection that’s right for you.

Sex Ed 102: Everything You Need To Know About DiaphragmsWhat is a diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a dome shaped cup with a flexible rim. It’s made of silicone or latex and is designed to stop sperm from entering the uterus and fallopian tubes in order to prevent an unintended pregnancy. To be more specific, it’s a reversible barrier method of birth control.

I personally suggest silicone because it lasts longer, is easy to care for, and won’t absorb odors, bodily fluids, or bacteria. The other reason I suggest silicone is that it is latex free, so for those of you that have latex allergies, or for those of you not sure if you have a latex allergy, it’s a good option.

Where can I get a diaphragm ?

Unfortunately you’re not able to buy them at a store or online like condoms. Instead, you need to get fitted for one by your health care provider to make sure that it’s the right size for your body and won’t allow any room for sperm to pass.

During your fitting your health care provider should show you how to use it properly and allow you to practice in the office, checking once inserted, to make sure you did it correctly.

If they don’t offer, please know there is nothing to be embarrassed about and you have every right to ask. The effectiveness of any birth control method always stands in using it perfectly. That said, it’s always better to be safe then sorry.

When it comes to using your diaphragm there are a few things that I suggest:

  • Always make sure your hands are clean before handling it, you don’t want to  transfer any bacteria which could cause an infection.
  • Hold your diaphragm up to a light or place a small amount of water in it to check for cracks or holes before use, if you do find any don’t use it.
  • If you’re using a silicone diaphragm do not use a silicone lubricant and make sure your hands are free of any silicone as it may break down the product.
  • If you’re using a latex diaphragm do not use an oil based product and make sure your hands are free of anything that may cause the latex to break down.  Remember, latex diaphragms are the same as latex condoms (only thicker) so treat them with the same respect.
  • Diaphragms do not offer protection against STD’s so you will need to either add another method of protection (like condoms) or choose something that fits your specific needs.

How do I insert the diaphragm?

Inserting your diaphragm and using it perfectly is something that will take some practice.  More likely then not, using your diaphragm will be uncomfortable, awkward, and annoying when you first start. I highly suggest taking some time inserting it and removing it before you use it during intercourse.  Now I know it sounds a little overwhelming but trust me, once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake.

Step 1.) After you’ve washed your hands,  hold the diaphragm dome side down. Squeeze a teaspoon of spermicide cream into the center of the diaphragm and spread a bit of the cream around the rim with your finger. If you have long nails be gentle as you don’t want to accidentally pierce it.

Step 2.) Squeeze the diaphragm so that it’s boat-shaped. Then, while using your free hand to separate your inner labia, insert the folded device into your vagina. To do this use whatever position you use when inserting a tampon; standing with one foot propped up, squatting, or while lying on your back in bed are all fine, just do whatever is most comfortable to you. Keep in mind that the position of the cervix and the walls of the vagina will differ depending on your position.

Step 3.) Push the diaphragm as far as it goes and use your index finger to tuck it behind your cervix.  Run the index or middle finger over the diaphragm’s dome to verify that it is covering the cervix; if the device is in the correct position, the cervix should be easily felt through the rubber. Some say it feels like the end of a nose, and that’s what it’s felt like for me, so I’m going with it.  It shouldn’t be too hard to tell since it is normal to detect folds in the diaphragm when it is in place.

One thing that I do want to note is that for the Diaphragm to be its most effective it must remain in place for 6 hours after intercourse, but no longer 24 hours, as there is an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome if you do.

How do I remove the diaphragm?

To remove it insert the index finger inside the vagina and place it behind the front rim of the diaphragm then pull the diaphragm downward and out of the vagina. Fortunately getting it out is a lot easier then inserting it.

How do I clean my diaphragm?

As for cleaning it, just wash the diaphragm with non-perfumed soap and warm water, rinse it well and dry it carefully; I suggest letting it air dry. Then return it to its original container and store it in a dry, cool place.

How effective is the diaphragm?

In regard to its effectiveness when used typically 20 out of 100 women will get pregnant. However when use perfectly only 6 out of 100 women will get pregnant. That in mind, as I said before it’s always better to get guidance from your health care provider since practice makes perfect!

Pro’s of using a diaphragm

  • It can be discretely carried in your pocket or purse.
  • It can be used during breastfeeding without risk of affecting your baby.
  • It usually can’t be felt by you or your partner.
  • It has no effect on a persons natural hormones unlike other methods.
  • It is immediately effective and reversible.
  • There is no interruption of sex play and can be inserted up to 6 hours ahead of time.

Cons of using a diaphragm

While I do think that the diaphragm is a great method of protection, the only downfall is that it in order for it to be effective it must be used in conjunction with spermicide. If you are curious as to why I feel this way I suggest you watch my video on spermicide and check out my article on the subject.

That said if you plan on having sex again within a three hour span of time you need to add more spermicide.  If you do choose to use this method of protection I suggest keeping a tube ready just to be safe.

  • While it’s still up for debate some people suggest that it cannot be used during your period
  • may be difficult for some women to insert (again that just takes practice)
  • may be pushed out of place due to heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions
  • must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse and used in conjunction with spermicide
  • may need to be refitted due to giving birth or weight change.

Common Side Effects

Fortunately most women can use the diaphragm without any issues arising. Serious problems are very rare and not that common. But some women may experience these side effects;

  • Frequent urinary tract infections. To avoid infection, urinate before inserting the diaphragm and after intercourse which will help to flush out any bacteria from the urethra.  If you get frequent bladder infections, ask your health care provider to check to see if your diaphragm fits correctly.
  • Vaginal irritation; this can be a sign of an allergy to latex or spermicide. If you have a mild reaction stop using the diaphragm until you speak with your health care provider. It’s always better to be safe then sorry.

As with other methods of protection I have covered I want to stress that for some of you this may work and for some of you it may not. However, since choosing a method of protection that is right for you is a very important step in being sexually active and responsible, I do feel it necessary to cover all of the options so you can see what’s available, how to use it, and make sure your using it correctly, which will of course increase the chances of effectiveness.


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