Contraception Barrier Methods Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a shallow latex cup inserted into the vagina in order to prevent pregnancy. The dome-shaped disc has flexible lid to make insertion and removal easy. A diaphragm covers the cervix, creating a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Diaphragm birth control is often used in conjunction with spermicide.

The Diaphragm - Barrier Method of Birth Control

With perfect use, the chance of pregnancy while using the diaphragm is 9 percent and 16 percent with imperfect use (i.e. improper insertion or not using spermicidal gel in addition).

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using a Diaphragm

Some benefits of using the diaphragm are that they:

  • Are considered safe for most women
  • Are very effective when compared to other methods of contraception
  • Can be carried conveniently in a purse
  • Don’t require taking hormones
  • Often cannot be felt by a woman’s sexual partner and are easy to remove
  • Last up to 2 years when properly cared for.

Some disadvantages of using diaphragm birth control are that they:

  • Can’t be used during menstruation
  • Have a higher up-front cost than birth control pills
  • Need to be replaced each time a woman has intercourse
  • Require a physician’s fitting and a prescription at the pharmacy.

A diaphragm can’t be left in place for more than 24 hours, as this increases a woman’s risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a serious bacterial infection also associated with tampon use. Also remember that diaphragm birth control doesn’t prevent STDs, and in some cases, may actually increase the risk of transmitting HIV.

Diaphragm Birth Control Side Effects

Some women who use the diaphragm may experience urinary tract infections or vaginal irritation caused by a latex allergy or reaction to spermicide. While the diaphragm is easier to remove than other barrier methods, some women may experience difficulty removing it. Before depending on the diaphragm as a main method of contraception, practice both in the presence of a healthcare provider and at home to ensure proper removal.

Is the Diaphragm Right for Me?

A health care provider can educate you on the proper use of diaphragm birth control, including:

  • Applying spermicidal gel
  • Cleansing hands before and after
  • Proper removal techniques.

Diaphragms are generally only available through a healthcare provider. In general, there are three costs associated with the use of a diaphragm:

  • The cost of the exam (consult your healthcare plan)
  • The diaphragm ($15 to $75)
  • The spermicide ($8 to $17).

The diaphragm is also often available through a private health care provider, Planned Parenthood health center or other clinic.


Planned Parenthood Staff. (n.d.). Birth control: The diaphragm. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Planned Parenthood Web site:

Palo Alto Medical Foundation Staff. (n.d.). Diaphragm. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the PAMF Web site: