DIAPHRAGMS AND CAPS
Anyone who has a womb, who is having sex with someone who has a penis, and wants to avoid getting pregnant.
Diaphragms are dome-shaped devices made of latex or silicone, that fit into the vagina and over the cervix. Cervical caps are smaller and need to be put directly onto the cervix.
Both the diaphragm and the cap work by stopping sperm from entering the womb by covering the cervix. They need to be used with spermicide gel, which contains chemicals that kill sperm. They are between 92-96% effective.
You need to use your diaphragm or cap every time you have sex, and you must leave it in for at least six hours afterwards. The first time you use one, it must be fitted by a doctor or nurse to ensure it is the right size.
They can be put in before sex, but you will need to add extra spermicide if you have sex more than three hours after putting it in. They are not affected by any medicines that you might take, and they don’t disturb your menstrual cycle.
Diaphragms and caps don’t protect you against STIs.
They can take a little getting used to before you’re confident using them.
Some people may be sensitive or allergic to latex or the chemical used in spermicide. Also, some people may develop the bladder infection cystitis when using a diaphragm or cap.
It is recommended that you do not use the diaphragm/cap during your period, so you will need to use an alternative method of contraception at this time.
You can get diaphragms and caps from Brook services, contraception clinics, GUM clinics and some GP surgeries.
When you go to get the diaphragm or cap, an appointment will typically include:
- A few questions about your medical and family history, to work out what would suit you best
- A doctor or nurse will examine you and recommend the size or shape to suit you
They will show you:
- how to insert the diaphragm or cap
- how to use spermicide
- how to take the diaphragm or cap out
Initially you may be fitted with a temporary ‘practice’ diaphragm or cap so that you can learn how to use it and see how it feels. During this time you will not be protected from pregnancy so will need to use additional contraception such as condoms. When you go back you should wear the diaphragm or cap so that the doctor or nurse can check it is the right size.
Once you have had the diaphragm or cap fitted, you will only need to go back to the doctor or nurse to replace it (most people can use the same one for a year).
real life experiences
Before I had my daughter, I used a diaphragm. I was planning to get pregnant in about six months time, and wanted to explore a hormone-free birth control method that wasn’t condoms. I tried out the diaphragm. I have mixed feelings about my experience—I loved not having to take a daily pill but wasn’t totally sure that I was putting in the diaphragm the right way. You have to leave the diaphragm up there for a couple of hours after having sex, so when my partner and I engaged in a little pre-work fun, I had to remove the device at the office and wash it out in the bathroom sink while praying none of my coworkers caught me in the act.