Diaphragm

Quick Facts

Moderately effective

Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting an STI

Can stay in place for 24 hours

Hormone-free

Can use with another method to make it more effective

A diaphragm, which is a small beige dome

More About the Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped, shallow cup that’s made of soft silicone. You put it into the vagina to cover the cervix. You use it with a spermicide.

  • Once it is in place, it works right away.
  • You can have sex more than once while it’s in place. Just add more spermicide each time to increase the efficacy of the diaphragm.
  • It is hormone-free, so it doesn’t affect your period.
  • You and your partner shouldn’t be able to feel it.
  • Diaphragms come in different sizes. One brand fits most people and you need a prescription to get one. Your clinician will give you an exam and tell you which type and size is best for you.

 

How to Use the Diaphragm

  • You need to be okay touching yourself as you will need to put it into your vagina. Practice putting it in and taking it out before using it.
  • Put a teaspoon of spermicide into the cup of the diaphragm and spread a little around the rim. Place the cup against the cervix (the opening of the uterus).
  • You can put the diaphragm in up to two hours before sex.
  • You must leave the diaphragm in for six hours after sex.
  • After taking it out, wash it with soap and water and allow it to dry.
  • Check for small holes or tears before and after you use it.
Spermicide goes in the dome of the diaphragm and is spread around the rim. The diaphragm is folded and put in the vagina with your fingers.

Put spermicide in the dome of the diaphragm and spread some around the rim. Fold the diaphragm and place it in the vagina with your fingers.

Effectiveness

  • The diaphragm is 83% effective with typical use. That is, on average, 17 out of 100 people using this method will get pregnant in a year. You can improve its effectiveness by:
    • Using it with another method, such as withdrawal or a condom. This also reduces your chances of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • The diaphragm is 88% effective with perfect use. That is, if the diaphragm is used correctly all the time, 12 out of 100 people will get pregnant in a year.
    • Perfect use means using a spermicide – and adding more every time you have sex.
Orange donut chart showing 88%. The title says "88% effective with typical use"
Yellow donut chart showing 94%. The title says "94% effective with perfect use"
Nine hands each holding a thumbs up

Benefits

  • It can be put in two hours in advance. It doesn’t need to interrupt the heat of the moment.
  • You can have sex as many times as you’d like while it’s in. Just add more spermicide!
  • You and your partner shouldn’t feel it once it’s in.
  • It is hormone-free.
  • It can be used while breastfeeding.

Side Effects and Limitations

  • You can’t use it if you are allergic to silicone or spermicide.
  • For some people, it might be hard to put in and take out.
  • It may irritate the vagina or lead to more urinary tract infections.
  • You have to have it with you and be able to put it in!
  • You need a prescription.
  • You have to use it every time you have sex. Once it’s in, just add more spermicide.
  • It does reduce your chances of getting HIV or other STIs.
A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful
California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers the cost of diaphragms. A provider can help you decide if a diaphragm is the best choice for you. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.