Diaphragm (contraceptive)


Image Caption : Contraceptive Diaphragm : Anteriosuperior view of a diaphragm. A diaphragm is a female mechanical contraceptive that blocks the cervix so sperm cannot enter the uterus. It should be used in combination with a spermicidal agent. A diaphragm is only available with a prescription and needs to be fitted by a doctor. When used correctly, it has a failure rate of 17%. It offers minimal protection against STDs.

Barrier methods - Put up a block, or barrier, to keep sperm from reaching the egg

Diaphragm, cervical cap, and cervical shield

These barrier methods block the sperm from entering the cervix (the opening to your womb) and reaching the egg.

  • The diaphragm is a shallow latex cup.
  • The cervical cap is a thimble-shaped latex cup. It often is called by its brand name, FemCap.
  • The cervical shield is a silicone cup that has a one-way valve that creates suction and helps it fit against the cervix. It often is called by its brand name, Lea's Shield.

The diaphragm and cervical cap come in different sizes, and you need a doctor to "fit" you for one. The cervical shield comes in one size, and you will not need a fitting.

Before having sex, add spermicide (to block or kill sperm) to the devices. Then place them inside your vagina to cover your cervix. You can buy spermicide gel or foam at a drug store.

All three of these barrier methods must be left in place for 6 to 8 hours after having sex to prevent pregnancy. The diaphragm should be taken out within 24 hours. The cap and shield should be taken out within 48 hours.

Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Birth Control

Also called: Contraception

Birth control, also known as contraception, is designed to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods may work in a number of different ways. These include

  • Preventing sperm from getting to the eggs - condoms, diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUDs) work this way
  • Keeping the woman's ovaries from releasing eggs that could be fertilized - birth control pills work this way
  • Sterilization, which permanently prevents a woman from getting pregnant or a man from being able to get a woman pregnant

Your choice of birth control should depend on several factors. These include your health, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners and desire to have children in the future. Your health care provider can help you select the best form of birth control for you.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

The diaphragm is a barrier method of birth control. It is moderately effective, with a one-year failure rate of around 12% with typical use. It is placed over the cervix with spermicide before sex and left in place for at least six hours after sex. Fitting by a healthcare provider is generally required.

Side effects are usually very few. Use may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections. If left in the vagina for more than 24 hours toxic shock syndrome may occur. While use may decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections, it is not very effective at doing so. There are a number of types of diaphragms with different rim and spring designs. They may be made from latex, silicone, or natural rubber. They work by blocking access to and holding spermicide near the cervix.

The diaphragm came into use around 1882. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. In the United Kingdom they cost the NHS less than 10 pounds each. In the United States they cost about 15 to 75 USD and are the birth control method of 0.3% of people. These costs do not include that of spermicide.



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