Diaphragm Fact Sheet

What is a diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a soft, thin, dome-shaped rubber cup used to prevent pregnancy.  Before use, it is filled with contraceptive jelly or cream, which kills sperm.  Diaphragms come in different sizes, and a trained health care provider must fit each woman individually.  You can walk about, take a bath, or use the toilet with the diaphragm in place.  It will not fall out or get lost in your body.  The diaphragm is 82 – 96% effective in preventing pregnancy.  In addition to preventing pregnancy, the chemical in the jelly or cream that kills sperm has also been found to kill the organisms that cause several sexually transmitted diseases, including Chlamydia and gonorrhea.   

After a scheduled 30-minute diaphragm fitting appointment with a Women’s Health provider, you will be given a prescription for the proper sized diaphragm for you.  The average cost of the diaphragm is $55; the cost of the diaphragm fitting visit is $60 which is billed to PSIP or your bursar account.

How to Use the Diaphragm (for a video demonstration please click here)

The diaphragm can be inserted up to six hours before having sex; follow the steps below to insert correctly: 

  1. Empty your bladder.   A full bladder makes it harder to fit the diaphragm.
  2. Hold the diaphragm with the dome down (like a cup).  Place one heaping teaspoon or two strips an inch long of contraceptive jelly or cream into the diaphragm.  Spread it around the inside of the diaphragm and on the rim.
  3. Stand with one foot propped up, squat, or lie down to put in the diaphragm. 
  4. Spread the skin folds around the vagina with one hand.  With the other hand, put the diaphragm into the vagina by pressing the opposite sides of the rim together so the diaphragm folds.  Make sure the contraceptive jelly or cream remains inside.  Push the diaphragm in as far back as it will go.  Then tuck the front rim tightly behind and against the pubic bone.  This is the bone you can feel in the front of your vagina. 
  5. Check to see if you can feel the tip of the cervix through the rubber cup.  The cervix feels like the tip of your nose � round and firm.  The contraceptive jelly or cream should be next to your cervix.  You may not be able to feel the back rim.  Make sure the front rim is behind your pubic bone.
  6. If a lubricant is needed to aid the penis in entering the vagina, use the contraceptive jelly or cream.  Do not use foam or Vaseline, as these will damage the rubber.
  7. If you have sex a second time, leave the diaphragm in place and insert a full applicator of contraceptive jelly or cream outside the diaphragm in the vagina.
  8. Wait 6 to 8 hours after ejaculation (release of sperm) before taking the diaphragm out. 


How to Remove the Diaphragm

  1. Put your finger behind the rim of the diaphragm.   Pull down and out.  Be careful not to make a hole in the diaphragm with your fingernail. 
  2. If you find it hard to hook your finger behind the diaphragm, try squatting and push downward with your stomach muscles (as though you were having a bowel movement).  You can also put a finger between the diaphragm and the pubic bone to break the suction of the diaphragm. 


How to Care for Your Diaphragm

         After each use, wash the diaphragm with mild soap and water, and rinse it in clean water.

         Dry it thoroughly, especially around the rim.

         Look for holes by holding it up to the light and carefully stretching the rubber with your fingers.  If a hole develops, the diaphragm will not be effective.

         Dust the diaphragm with cornstarch to help preserve the rubber.  Never use talcum powder or baby powder since these contain oil and will cause the diaphragm to fall apart.  If you have problems with yeast infections, rinse the cornstarch off before insertion.

         Place the diaphragm in a dry container away from heat. 

         Have your diaphragm fit checked if you lose or gain more than 10 to 20 pounds, or if the diaphragm causes discomfort or pain.