This handout will tell you about diaphragms and how to use one. If you have questions or
concerns, please call the number listed at the end of this handout.
What is a Diaphragm?
It is a form of birth control used by women. It consists of a thin silicone or latex dome with a
flexible ring around the outer edge.
It acts as a block to keep sperm out of your uterus. It also holds spermicidal (sperm-killing)
cream or jelly close to your cervix. If you are unsure what spermicide to use, please ask your
health care provider or pharmacist.
Getting Your Diaphragm
Diaphragms come in many sizes. Your health care provider must fit you for your diaphragm.
Your diaphragm will need to be re-fitted if you gain or lose over 10 pounds, or if you have a
baby. You should replace your diaphragm every 2 years or sooner if it becomes damaged or
The diaphragm covers your cervix. It tucks behind your pubic bone (see picture). You should
be able to feel your cervix through the diaphragm. A poor fit can cause the diaphragm to slip out
of place. This can cause discomfort and increase the risk of getting pregnant.
Diaphragms will be dispensed by the clinic. We will find the right size for you and put it in.
You will be asked to practice putting one in and taking it out. You will need to be able to do it
yourself before you go home. You will receive your diaphragm in the clinic after the fitting.
A diaphragm may or may not be covered by your insurance. Spermicidal cream or jelly must be
used with the diaphragm. Spermicidal cream or jelly can be purchase over-the-counter without a
Using your Diaphragm
The diaphragm must be used each time you have sex. Apply spermicide to the diaphragm
before inserting it in the vagina. Use about 1 tablespoon or the size of a quarter. Apply it to the
inside center of your diaphragm. Using your finger, spread more spermicide around the rim.
This will help form a seal against the cervix when it is in place. Insert the diaphragm in the
vagina as directed.
If over 6 hours passes before you have sex, insert more spermicide in the vagina by using an
applicator full of spermicidal cream or jelly. You should leave your diaphragm in to do this.
After you have had sex, you need to keep your diaphragm in place for at least 6 hours. This is
done so that the diaphragm keeps blocking the sperm from entering the uterus. It also allows for
the spermicide to work on stopping or killing all of the sperm. Do not douche during this time,
as it will wash away the spermicide.
If you want to have sex more than one time, leave your diaphragm in place. You will need to add
another dose of spermicide before each time you have sex. Wait 6 more hours before you take it
out. Always start counting the 6 hours from the last time you have had sex before taking out
Before each time you have sex, it is also vital to check to make sure your diaphragm is still in the
correct place. If you find that it has slipped out of place and you have had sex, call our office
right away. You may be able to take emergency contraception. Emergency contraception needs
to be given as soon as possible after unprotected sex to decrease your chance of getting pregnant.
You can leave your diaphragm in place for up to 24 hours. It should not get in the way of your
How effective is the Diaphragm?
With perfect use, if women use the diaphragm every time they have sex and use as instructed
every time, the failure rate is 6%. This means that with perfect use 6 out of 100 women will get
pregnant in the first year of use. The diaphragm works best to prevent pregnancy when it is
always used correctly and used every time you have sex.
The typical woman though may not use the diaphragm every time she has sex or may not always
use it correctly. Because of this the actual failure rate you should expect is about 20%. This
means that 20 out of 100 women will become pregnant in the first year.
Care of your Diaphragm
After use, your diaphragm needs to be washed with mild soap and water. Pat it dry. You may
dust it with cornstarch to absorb any extra moisture or leave it to air dry in your open case. This
will keep the silicone or latex from breaking down. Do not use talcum powder or perfume.
Those may be harmful to the silicone or latex. You will want to hold it up to a light and look for
tiny cracks, holes, or breaks. Always store it in its case to protect it. Be aware that contact with
oil-based products can cause the diaphragm to fall apart.
Do not use
Petroleum jelly Mineral Oil Cocoa Butter
Cold cream Hand lotion Vegetable oil
Over-the-counter and prescription vaginal creams such as Monistat®, Vagisil®, Gyne-Lotrimin®,
Terazol®, Metro-Gel®, Premarin® or Estrace®
You may use water-soluble lubricants if needed.
Call your clinic if you have:
ξ Unusual vaginal discharge
ξ Urgent, frequent, or burning urination
UW Health- Managed OB Clinics
UW Health West
451 Junction Rd
Madison WI 53717
UW Health East
5249 E Terrace Pkwy
Madison WI 53718
UW Health Benign
600 Highland Ave
Madison WI 53792
600 Highland Ave
Madison WI 53792
UWMF- Managed OB Clinics
20 S. Park, Suite 307
Madison, WI 53715
4122 East Towne
Madison, WI 53704
7102 Mineral Point Rd.
Madison, WI 53717
5543 East Cheryl
Fitchburg, WI 53711
UW Arboretum OB/GYN Clinic
1102 S. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 6/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4225