Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a birth control (contraceptive) device that helps prevent sperm from entering the uterus. The diaphragm is a small, reusable rubber or silicone cup with a flexible rim that covers the cervix.

Before sex, the diaphragm is inserted deep into the vagina so that part of the rim fits snugly behind the pubic bone. The diaphragm is most effective at preventing pregnancy when used with spermicide.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect

The diaphragm helps prevent pregnancy. Among various benefits, the diaphragm:

  • Allows prompt return to fertility
  • Can be used as a backup method of birth control
  • Can be used during breast-feeding beginning six weeks after childbirth
  • Can be inserted up to six hours before sex and left in place for up to 24 hours
  • Doesn't require a partner's cooperation
  • Has few, if any, side effects

The diaphragm isn't appropriate for everyone, however. Your health care provider may discourage use of the diaphragm if you:

  • Are allergic to silicone, latex or spermicide
  • Are at high risk of or have HIV/AIDS
  • Are at high risk of pregnancy — you're younger than age 30, you have sex three or more times a week, you've had previous contraceptive failure with vaginal barrier methods, or you're not likely to consistently use the diaphragm
  • Have vaginal abnormalities that interfere with the fit, placement or retention of the diaphragm
  • Have frequent urinary tract infections
  • Have a history of toxic shock syndrome
  • Have significant pelvic organ prolapse, such as uterine prolapse — when the uterus descends into the vagina from its normal position in the pelvis
  • Recently gave birth or had a miscarriage or an abortion
© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use