Birth Control FAQs: The Diaphragm

Consumers have countless birth control options today.  With all of these options, from pills to shots, implants to patches, it can be difficult to figure out what could work for you and what wouldn’t. That’s why Nurx is making a series called “Birth Control FAQs,” where they aim to empower people by answering the most frequently asked questions for each type of birth control.  Whether you’re looking to learn more about diaphragms work or what the big deal is with female condoms, Nurx has your back. Even though Nurx doesn’t offer diaphragms, we do offer many different types of birth control pill. Contact us today and let’s talk about which one is right for you, plus we’ll get you your first pack for only $5.

What is a Diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a shallow cup is made from soft, flexible silicone and is typically not felt by either partner during sex. You insert the diaphragm into your vagina before sex. This allows the cup to act as a barrier to your cervix that prevents sperm from reaching an egg.

The diaphragm can be quite effective when used correctly, and it allows women to prevent pregnancy without the use of hormones. That means that diaphragms won’t be affected by any medications you take and won’t cause changes to your menstrual cycle. Like condoms, diaphragms are used on demand, so you don’t have to take daily pills, get injections, or wear a patch. However, it takes some practice to learn how to insert a diaphragm correctly, and this birth control method can make your sex life a bit less spontaneous. Diaphragms don’t prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and may cause irritation or infections, especially if they are left in too long.

It’s important to get the correct diaphragm size for your body and to use spermicide with your diaphragm to further decrease the risk of pregnancy. Spermicide — which comes as a cream, foam, gel, or film — contains chemicals that help to block the entrance to your cervix and slow down sperm so they can’t reach an egg.  

How to Use a Diaphragm

To insert your diaphragm, wash your hands with soap and water then add about one tablespoon of spermicide to the cup. Get into a comfortable position to insert the diaphragm; you could stand with one foot on a chair, sit on the edge of a chair, squat, or lie down. It may help to use the same position you’d use to insert a tampon.

Next, use one hand to separate the lips of your vulva. Use the other hand to pinch the rim of the diaphragm so it folds in half. Insert the diaphragm into your vagina and push it up and back as far as it will go. The edge of the diaphragm should be tucked behind your pubic bone so that it covers the cervix.

You can put your diaphragm in up to two hours before you have sex. If you want to have sex and it has been more than two hours, or if you want to have sex more than once, reapply the spermicide. Leave your diaphragm in place for at least six hours after the last time you had sex. Never leave your diaphragm in for more than 24 hours or use it when you’re on your period.

To remove your diaphragm, break the suction on the diaphragm by hooking your finger just over the top of the rim. Then, gently pull your diaphragm out.

Always wash your diaphragm with warm, soapy water right after you take it out. Then, allow it to air dry completely before storing it in a clean place where it won’t be exposed to extreme heat or direct sunlight. Regularly examine your diaphragm to make sure there are no weak spots, holes, or cracks. If there’s anything wrong with your diaphragm, use another form of birth control until you can have it replaced.

Availability

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You need to visit a doctor to get a prescription for a diaphragm. A nurse or doctor will fit you for the correct size of diaphragm and show you how to insert and remove it.

The cost of a diaphragm can be up to $250 dollars. Your insurance may cover part or all of this cost. While the initial expense is higher than with some other types of birth control, the same diaphragm can be reused for up to two years.

Always use spermicide with your diaphragm for maximum effectiveness. Spermicide does not require a prescription and can be purchased at most drugstores. The cost is approximately $0.50 to $1.50 per use.

At Nurx, we can help you figure out which type of birth control works best with your insurance and your budget. We can even help you find affordable options when you don’t have any insurance, including cost-effective generic brands like TriNessa birth control pills or Xulane birth control patches. 

Precautions

Make sure to talk to your doctor about allergy concerns before you get a diaphragm. If your vagina feels sore or irritated after using a diaphragm, it may indicate that you are sensitive to the diaphragm materials or spermicide ingredients.

Getting the correct fit for a diaphragm is critical for it to be effective. However, the correct size for your body may change over time. If you’ve gotten pregnant, had an abortion, or experienced a weight change of 10 pounds or more, you need to have your diaphragm refitted.

Side Effects

Some women experience an increased risk of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) when using a diaphragm. To reduce your risk, make sure you carefully wash and dry your diaphragm after every use.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare yet serious side effect of using diaphragms. To reduce the risk of TSS, don’t use your diaphragm during your menstrual period or leave it in for more the 24 hours.

Because diaphragms and spermicide contain no hormones, they offer a good alternative for those who have had adverse reactions to the hormones in other types of birth control. At Nurx, we also urge women to consider progestin-only birth control pills, which can have fewer hormonal side effects than combination pills, patches, or rings. 

FAQs

What is a Diaphragm Fitting?

A healthcare provider will perform a pelvic examination to determine the correct diaphragm size for your body. Several different sizes may be tested to find the right fit based on your vaginal length. The healthcare provider can any questions you have about how to insert the diaphragm or how to apply spermicide. You’ll need to return for an updated fitting after a pregnancy, abortion, pelvic surgery, or a significant change in weight.

Can I Use a Diaphragm While I’m on My Period?

Yes, diaphragms can be used while menstruating. Because they are hormone-free, diaphragms will not affect your menstrual cycle.

When Should I Remove My Diaphragm?

Leave your diaphragm in for at least six hours after having sex. This waiting period before removal is based on the time it takes for sperm cells to stop being active.

What Should I Do if I Leave My Diaphragm in for More Than 24 Hours?

If more than 24 hours have passed, remove your diaphragm and visit a doctor for an examination to rule out bacterial growth or Toxic Shock Syndrome as possible side effects.

Do Diaphragms Prevent STIs?

No. You can use condoms along with your diaphragm to help protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).