This handout was written to tell you about diaphragms and how to use one. If you have questions or concerns, please call the number listed at the end of this handout.
What is a Diaphragm?
It is a form of birth control used by women. It consists of a thin silicone or latex dome with a flexible ring around the outer edge.
It acts as a block to keep sperm out of your uterus. It also holds spermicidal (sperm-killing) cream or jelly close to your cervix. Spermicide cream or jelly should contain Nonoxynil 9®. This is a very strong sperm killing agent. If you are unsure what spermicide to use, please ask your health care provider or pharmacist.
Getting Your Diaphragm
Diaphragms come in many sizes. Your health care provider must fit you for your diaphragm. If you gain or lose over 10 pounds or if you have a baby, your diaphragm needs to be re-fitted. You should replace your diaphragm every 2 years or sooner if it becomes damaged or torn.
The diaphragm covers your cervix. It tucks behind your pubic bone (see picture). You should be able to feel your cervix through the diaphragm. A poor fit can cause the diaphragm to slip out of place. This can cause discomfort and increase the risk of getting pregnant.
We will find the right size for you and put it in. You will be asked to practice putting one in and taking it out, until you are able to do it before you go home.
You will be given a prescription for the size that fits you. You can pick it up at your pharmacy. A diaphragm may or may not be covered by your insurance. Spermicidal cream or jelly must be used with the diaphragm. Spermicidal cream or jelly can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription.
Using Your Diaphragm
The diaphragm must be used each time you have sex. Apply spermicide to the diaphragm before inserting it in the vagina. Use about 1 tablespoon or the size of a quarter. Apply it to the inside center of your diaphragm. Using your finger, spread additional spermicide around the rim. This will help form a seal against the cervix when it is in place. Insert the diaphragm in the vagina as directed.
If over 6 hours passes before you have sex, insert more spermicide in the vagina by using an applicator full of spermicidal cream or jelly. You should leave your diaphragm in to do this.
After you have had sex, you need to keep your diaphragm in place for at least 6 hours. This is done so that the diaphragm keeps blocking the sperm from entering the uterus. It also allows for the spermicide to work on stopping or killing all of the sperm. Do not douche during this time, as it will wash away the spermicide.
If you want to have sex more than one time, leave your diaphragm in place, and add another dose of spermicide before each act of intercourse. Wait 6 more hours before you take it out. Always start counting the 6 hours from the last time you have had sex before taking out your diaphragm.
Before each act of intercourse, it is also vital to check to make sure your diaphragm is still in the correct place. If you find that it has slipped out of place and you have had sex, call our office right away. You may be able to take Emergency Contraception. Emergency Contraception needs to be given within 72 hours of unprotected sex to decrease your chance of getting pregnant.
You can leave your diaphragm in place for up to 24 hours. It should not get in the way of your normal routines.
If you have sex more than 3 times per week, this may not be the best method for you. Research shows that women who have intercourse often may be more likely to have contraceptive failure and higher chances of getting pregnant.
Call your clinic if you have:
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Urgent, frequent, or burning urination
Care of Your Diaphragm
After use, your diaphragm needs to be washed with mild soap and water. Pat it dry. You may dust it with cornstarch to absorb any extra moisture or leave it to air dry in your open case. This will keep the silicone or latex from breaking down. Do not use talcum powder or perfume. Those may be harmful to the silicone or latex. You will want to hold it up to a light and look for tiny cracks, holes, or breaks. Always store it in its case to protect it. Be aware that contact with oil-based products can cause the diaphragm to fall apart.
Do not use
- Petroleum jelly
- Cold cream
- Mineral oil
- Hand lotion
- Cocoa butter
- Vegetable oil
Over-the-counter and prescription vaginal creams such as Monistat®, Vagisil®, Gyne-Lotrimin®, Terazol®, Metro-Gel®, Premarin® or Estrace®.
You may use water-soluble lubricants if needed.
UW Health-Managed OB Clinics
UW Health West Women’s Health Clinic
451 Junction Rd
Madison WI 53717
UW Health East OB/GYN Clinic
5249 E Terrace Pkwy
Madison WI 53718
UW Health Benign Gynecology Clinic
600 Highland Ave
Madison WI 53792
UW Health Gynecology/Oncology Clinic
600 Highland Ave
Madison WI 53792
UWMF-Managed OB Clinics
20 S. Park, Suite 307
Madison, WI 53715
4122 East Towne Blvd.
Madison, WI 53704
7102 Mineral Point Rd.
Madison, WI 53717
5543 East Cheryl Parkway
Fitchburg, WI 53711
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/16/2012
Copyright © 02/16/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4225
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