Diaphragm icon


  • 88% effective
  • Put it in before sex
  • Use spermicide with it
  • Prescription required
  • No hormones
  • No STI/STD protection


What is it?
  • A diaphragm is a shallow, bendable silicone cup, shaped like a little saucer, that you put inside your vagina before sex.

  • The diaphragm is a barrier method that you use every time you have sex. It covers your cervix.

  • A diaphragm should be used with spermicide, which is a cream or gel that kills sperm.

  • If used perfectly, the diaphragm is 94% effective. But people aren’t perfect. So, in reality, the diaphragm is 88% effective.*
How it works
  • The diaphragm creates a barrier that covers your cervix, which blocks sperm from reaching an egg. 

  • To increase its effectiveness, you need to add spermicide to your diaphragm. Spermicide is a cream or gel that kills sperm.

  • The diaphragm keeps the spermicide in place near your cervix.

  • Together the diaphragm and spermicide are more effective in preventing pregnancy.
How to get it
  • You can get a prescription for a diaphragm at your medical facility.

  • During your visit, your provider will fit you for a diaphragm — they come in several sizes — and show you how to insert it. 
  • Because of the Affordable Care Act, Kaiser Permanente members can get certain types of birth control methods at low or no cost. Check with Member Services or your provider for details. 
How to use it
  • Put a tablespoon of spermicide in the cup of the diaphragm. 

  • Insert the diaphragm into your vagina before you have sex. Push it as far up and back into your vagina as it can go, with the dome pointing down.

  • You can put your diaphragm in up to 2 hours before you have sex. If you have sex past that 2-hour mark, you’ll need to reapply spermicide. Spermicide doesn’t work as well after 2 hours.

  • After sex, leave your diaphragm in place for at least 6 hours. Don’t leave it in for more than 24 hours.

  • When you take out your diaphragm, hook your finger over the top of the rim of the dome and gently pull it down and out. Then wash it with soap and warm water and let it air-dry.
  • Diaphragms are portable and can easily fit in your pocket or bag. 

  • Diaphragms are hormone-free.

  • Diaphragms can last up to 2 years with proper care.

  • It’s temporary. You can stop using it whenever you want to try getting pregnant.

  • Diaphragms can be used while you’re breastfeeding.
  • Diaphragms can be hard to put in correctly. Some people have trouble inserting them properly, which can lead to pregnancy.
  • Diaphragms can move out of place if you’re having vigorous sex.

  • Diaphragms can increase your chance of getting a bladder infection.

  • They don’t work as well if you don’t use spermicide. 

  • Spermicide may have side effects like vaginal irritation. 

  • Diaphragms do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), including HIV.

  • Diaphragm sizing is important. You need to regularly check to make sure your diaphragm still fits. Changes in your body, like weight gain, can affect how your diaphragm fits.


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© 2020 Kaiser Permanente

*“Diaphragm,” Planned Parenthood, plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/diaphragm/how-effective-are-diaphragms, accessed August 13, 2019.