Birth Control – Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a circular, latex cup that you can insert into your vagina to prevent pregnancy. It is very flexible to accommodate different vagina sizes. Many women use a diaphragm because it is relatively safe, lasts for up to 2 years and costs less than birth control pills. On average, a diaphragm can cost anywhere between $15 and $75.

As is the case with all birth control, a diaphragm is effective because it prevents sperm from joining with the egg. However, for a diaphragm to be 100 percent effective, it is best to use it in conjunction with some form of spermicidal cream or jelly.

When you purchase a diaphragm from your local clinic, someone there will help show you how to insert and remove it. Practice makes perfect, and it is recommended that you also try taking it in and out at home as well, until you are familiar with the motions.

Inserting a Diaphragm: Before inserting a diaphragm, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Place a small amount of spermicide (about a tablespoon) in the cup and spread it around the rim. Then you must make yourself comfortable. You can stand, sit, squat, sit over the toilet, on the edge of a chair, or lie down. It is completely your preference. Pinch the rim of the diaphragm to fold it in half with the other hand. Place your index finger in the center of the fold for a firmer grip. Remember that the spermicide must be inside this fold. Push the diaphragm as far up and back in your vagina as possible. Tuck the edge of the diaphragm behind your pubic bone, and make sure your cervix is covered.

In order for it to work, the diaphragm must remain in place for six hours after intercourse. If you decide that you would like to have intercourse again, place some spermicide deep within the vagina, and keep to the rule of six hours. It is important to note that you should not leave the diaphragm inside your vagina for over 24 hours.

When it is time to remove the diaphragm, make sure your hands are clean and thoroughly washed. In order to split the rim from suctioning the inner vaginal walls, take your finger and place it over a spot on the rim of the diaphragm. The best way to remove is to pull straight down. If you have problems placing or removing your diaphragm, there is a special inserting device the clinic can provide. This will help assist you with the areas you may have trouble.

Because diaphragms come in all shapes and sizes, you need to get one that fits your body best. There are a few things that can change your body and require the need for a different shape or size of diaphragm. If you have given birth, had abdominal or pelvic surgery, lost or gained more than 20 percent of your total body weight, or have had a miscarriage or abortion after 3 and a half months of pregnancy, chances are you will need to be fitted for a new diaphragm.

It is important to take care of you diaphragm. If you do this correctly, they can last approximately two years. The best way to take care of it is to keep it clean. Make sure you always wash it with mild soap and water upon removal and always let it air dry in a safe place. Using any types of powder or oil-based lubricants can damage the exterior of the diaphragm and therefore make it ineffective. Using water-based lubricants is best.

If you do damage your diaphragm in any way, you may be able to tell. Holding it up to the light is a very good way to spot any holes that may have infiltrated the diaphragm skin. You can also look for holes by filling it with water and look for leaks. If the diaphragm becomes discolored or wrinkled, it is time to get a new one. Do not use your diaphragm if you have discovered any of the above problems. Return to your clinic to get a replacement.

It goes without saying that your diaphragm should not be shared. Do not let anyone else use it, and do not use anyone else’s, under any circumstances.

Is a Diaphragm Effective?

Women that use the diaphragm correctly have only a 6% chance of becoming pregnant each year. But women who do not use it correctly have a 16% chance of becoming pregnant.

Ways to make your diaphragm more effective:

  • Use it in conjunction with spermicide, as directed above
  • Be sure that it completely covers your cervix before engaging in intercourse
  • Having your partner pull out before he ejaculates
  • Having your partner also use a latex condom in conjunction with the diaphragm

There are some conditions that exist that will make it hard for women to properly use a diaphragm. If this is the case, this may not be the best method of birth control for you. See the list below to familiarize yourself with these conditions:

  • An allergic reaction to spermicide or latex
  • If you have given birth in the last six weeks
  • If you are uncomfortable touching your vagina or cervix
  • Any physical problems with your vagina or uterus
  • If you have trouble inserting the diaphragm
  • If you have frequent UTIs (urinary tract infections)
  • If you have had a history of toxic shock syndrome
  • If you have poor muscle tone in your vagina
  • If you have had recent surgery on your cervix
  • If you have recently had a late-term abortion
  • If you experience spotting or vaginal bleeding (a diaphragm cannot be used during your period)

Talk to your physician or the specialist at your clinic and they can help you determine if using a diaphragm is right for you.

Advantages of a Diaphragm

Below are the advantages of using a diaphragm:

  • It is small and discreet enough to be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • If you are breastfeeding, you can still use one
  • Your partner will most likely not feel its presence
  • There are no hormones associated with this method
  • Its immediate effectiveness or ineffectiveness (removal)
  • Since it can be inserted beforehand, sex does not have to be interrupted

Disadvantages of a Diaphragm

Below are the disadvantages of using a diaphragm:

  • You cannot use it during your period
  • Some women find it difficult to insert or remove
  • It can fall out of place by large penis sizes, rough sex, and certain positions
  • It may need to be refitted

What are the Side Effects of Using a Diaphragm?

It is unlikely that you will develop any side effects, but although it is rare, some problems can occur.

Some women who use a diaphragm can develop frequent UTIs (urinary tract infections). This is painful and uncomfortable and can lead to a woman’s decision to not continue using one. However, you can try to prevent an infection by urinating before inserting the diaphragm and after each time you have intercourse.

Another side effect is vaginal irritation. This can occur because of allergic reaction to latex or spermicide. Women with weak reactions can try to switch brands of spermicide to see if it makes a difference. If not, it could mean that you have to refrain from using a diaphragm and may have to visit your clinic to see what other options are available.

If you experience the following while using a diaphragm, definitely pay a visit to your clinic.

  • Feel a pinching or burning sensation during urination
  • Feel uncomfortable when the diaphragm is in place
  • Experience spotting or irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Experience itching or irritation in the genital area
  • Feel swelling or see redness around the vagina or vulva
  • Experience abnormal discharge from your vagina

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