Diaphragm

Quick Facts

Moderately effective

Does not protect from STDs

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. It is used in conjunction 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 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 women) 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 the vagina
    – Practice putting it in and taking it out before using it.
  • Add a teaspoon of spermicide into the cup of the diaphragm and spread a little around the rim – this side is placed 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, simply wash with soap and water and allow 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

  • 88% effective with typical use. This means that on average, 12 out of 100 women using this method will get pregnant in a year. You can improve effectiveness by:
    • Using it with another method, such as a condom (also protects from HIV and STDs) or withdrawal
  • 94% effective with perfect use. This means that if the diaphragm is used correctly all the time, 6 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year.
    • Perfect use means using a spermicide – and adding more every time you have sex.
Yellow 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 – 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 women, 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 not protect against HIV or other STDs.
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. You can search for a Family PACT provider near you by clicking on the “Provider Search” button in the right hand corner of this page.