What is it?

This is a small plastic dome-shaped device which is one of the only non hormone-containing forms of contraception available to women.

How does it work?

It acts as a barrier to sperm and therefore prevents fertilisation. It should always be used in conjunction with a spermicide to improve its success rate.

How effective is it?

The failure rate with a diaphragm is quoted as 2-15. i.e. if 100 women used the diaphragm as their only form of contraception for 1 year, 2-15 would get pregnant. The variation depends on the users technique and the use of spermicide which greatly improves its success rate.

Who is suitable to use it?

All women are suitable to use the diaphragm. In reality it is probably best suited to women who are having less frequent sex, or who cannot tolerate or do not want to use any hormonal forms of contraception.

Are there any side effects?

There are no side effects with a diaphragm, although latex allergy sufferers should avoid this form of contraception.

How do I take it?

The diaphragm is used only when you are having sex. It is placed in position prior to sex by the patient and this is usually not a problem in women who are tampon users. It must remain in place for at least 6 hours after sex. It is then removed, washed and dried and stored for next use.

How do you get pregnant while using it?

Apart from the unavoidable failure rate associated with it, ways to reduce failure are to be remeasured after each pregnancy and after any weight gain or loss of 5 kg. The diaphragm should also be checked for any tiny perforations by holding it up to the light. Diaphragms should be routinely replaced every 2 years, and should always be used in conjunction with spermicide.

How do I start?

Diaphragms are prescribed by your doctor. You need to be measured and fitted with the correctly sized diaphragm by a trained professional. You will also be taught how to insert and remove the diaphragm yourself.