A diaphragm acts as a barrier method of contraception. It fits inside a woman’s vagina and covers the cervix (entrance to the womb) to stop sperm from meeting and fertilising an egg. Other barrier methods include male and female condoms.
How diaphragms works
The diaphragm is a soft, shallow, silicone dome with a flexible rim. It fits inside a woman’s vagina and covers the cervix. It stops sperm from entering the uterus (womb) and meeting an egg. A diaphragm needs to be fitted by a doctor or reproductive health nurse.
You can put in a diaphragm any time before having sex, as long as it is not left in place for more than 24 hours at a time. If you have your period, it should be put in just before having sex.
The diaphragm is held in place by the vaginal muscles. It needs to stay in place for at least six hours after having sex. During this time, any sperm left in the vagina are killed by the normal vaginal secretions.
There are two types of diaphragms currently available in Australia. The traditional diaphragm is fitted by a doctor or nurse and is available in four sizes. It is between 88 and 94 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, as long as it is fitted, positioned and used the right way. This diaphragm is being withdrawn from the Australian market.
A new single size diaphragm called Caya® is available. It is between 82 and 86 per cent effective. The size will be suitable for around 80 per cent of women.
The advantages of using a diaphragm include that:
- It will not change your menstrual cycle.
- You can put it in any time before having sex.
- You can use it when you have your period.
- It can be washed and used again.
- It lasts for up to two years.
The disadvantages of using a diaphragm include that:
- Some women find it difficult or do not like putting it in.
- You may find it uncomfortable if the size is not right for you.
- You may have a higher risk of urinary tract infections.
- It does not give the best available protection against sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
Having a diaphragm fitted
You will need to see a doctor or reproductive health nurse for your first fitting of a traditional diaphragm and again for a refit if:
- the diaphragm passes its use-by date
- you have a baby
- you gain or lose three or more kilograms
- the diaphragm feels uncomfortable.
Many women find it helpful to see a doctor or nurse to check that they are placing the single-size diaphragm correctly.
Using spermicide or gel with a diaphragm
Doctors recommend using spermicidal gel (gel that kills sperm) with a traditional diaphragm, but it is not available in Australia. Many women choose to keep using the traditional diaphragm without spermicide because the research suggesting the gel makes the diaphragm more effective is limited. If you would like more information, you can speak with a doctor or reproductive health nurse.
The single size diaphragm, Caya®, is designed to be used with Caya Gel®.
Other types of contraception
There are many different types of contraception available in Australia. A doctor or reproductive health nurse can give you more information about your options.
When choosing a method of contraception, it is important to consider your general health, lifestyle, relationships, and your current and future needs. It is also important to weigh up the benefits and side effects that may come with each method.
Diaphragms and sexually transmissible infections
Diaphragms are not used for protection against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). It is important to practise safer sex. The best way to lessen the risk of STIs is to use barrier protection such as male and female condoms with all new sexual partners. Condoms can be used with the diaphragm for vaginal and alone for oral and anal sex to help prevent the spread of infections.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Community health centre
- Reproductive specialist
- Family Planning Victoria Tel. (03) 9257 0100 or freecall 1800 013 952
- Family Planning Victoria’s Action Centre (for people aged under 25) Tel. (03) 9660 4700 or freecall 1800 013 952
- The Women’s Health Information Centre (WHIC) Tel. (03) 8345 3045 or 1800 442 007 (regional/ rural callers)
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre Tel. (03) 9341 6200 or freecall 1800 032 017 or TTY (for people with a hearing impairment) (03) 9347 8619
Things to remember
- The diaphragm acts as a barrier method of contraception.
- Other barrier methods include male and female condoms and dams.
- Different methods may suit you at different times in your life.
- Condoms give the best available protection against sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Family Planning Victoria
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.