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Birth Control Health Center

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Birth Control: Is the Diaphragm Right for You?

Women have been using the diaphragm for birth control in one form or another for hundreds of years. It’s a small, flexible cup made of silicone or latex that goes inside the vagina to block sperm from reaching an egg. It has very few risks and can be up to 94% effective. Here’s how to decide if it’s right for you.

How do you use a diaphragm?

You need to use a diaphragm along with a cream or gel that kills sperm, called a spermicide.

First squeeze about a tablespoon of spermicide inside the cup of the diaphragm and spread more around the rim. To put it in:

  • Get in a comfortable position with your legs open and knees bent.
  • Fold the diaphragm in half, with your index finger inside to help guide it.
  • With your other hand, open your labia, then push the diaphragm as far up and back inside your vagina as it will go.
  • The diaphragm should cover the narrow opening to your uterus, called the cervix, and the front edge should tuck behind your pubic bone.

You can put it in up to 6 hours before you have sex, and you need to leave it in for at least 6 hours after.

Once it’s in place, you can have sex more than once, but you need to reapply spermicide before each time. Do that with your fingers or an applicator, making sure to get it deep inside your vagina. Most spermicides only work if you use them less than an hour before you have sex. So if you put the diaphragm in hours ahead of time, remember to add more.

You can leave the diaphragm in for up to 24 hours. To remove it:

  • Hook your finger over the rim and pull it down and out. If you have trouble, ask your doctor about a special tool that can help.
  • Clean the diaphragm with soap and water, let it air dry, and store it in its case. Avoid oil-based lubricants, which can damage silicone. Check it every so often for holes or cracks.
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