The diaphragm is a dome-shaped, soft rubber disk with a flexible rim that is placed inside the vagina before intercourse. It is used in conjunction with spermicidal cream or jelly. Spermicide is smeared on both sides of the diaphragm and acts as a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. When properly inserted, the diaphragm covers the cervix.

If you decide on this method of birth control, you will need to see your doctor to be fitted with a diaphragm and to learn how to insert and remove it yourself. The diaphragm is inserted up to four hours before intercourse and must remain in place for at least six hours after intercourse. Also, if your weight changes by more than ten pounds, if you have pelvic surgery, or if you have a baby and want to resume contraception, you will need to be remeasured for a new diaphragm.

Additional spermicide must be inserted each time intercourse is repeated. Spermicides are available in foams, jellies, or creams and can be purchased at most drugstores without a prescription. The diaphragm, in combination with a spermicide, has an estimated 82 to 97 percent success rate when used correctly. There are no life-threatening risks or health hazards associated with using a diaphragm. Some women may find the spermicide slightly irritating, but changing brands may help.

For women who suffer chronic bladder or urethral (your-ree’-thral) infections, diaphragms may aggravate the conditions.

You can learn more on this topic when you visit The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists website.