The diaphragm or 'cap' is a soft, thin, small rubber cap that fits inside your vagina and covers the cervix. It only needs to be used when you have sex.

The diaphragm works by stopping sperm from entering the womb. The diaphragm is inserted before sex and then removed afterwards. It does not stay in you all the time. The diaphragm is sometimes combined with a sperm-killing substance called spermicide.

Inserting a diaphragm is a simple procedure that can be easily taught. You will need to be examined first by a trained person to ensure that the diaphragm you are given is the correct size to cover your cervix.

The diaphragm starts working as soon as you put it in. It stops working as soon as you take it out.

How good is the diaphragm at preventing a pregnancy?

  • The diaphragm works moderately well at preventing a pregnancy. It is only as good as your ability to put it in. It will not work if you fail to put it in every time you have sex.

  • If 100 women used the diaphragm during sex for a year then 18 women would fall pregnant during that period.

  • If you think you will not will not remember or not be able to put the diaphragm in every time before sex, then it may not be the best method for you.

What are other good things about the diaphragm?

  • The diaphragm may help to prevent against sexually transmitted diseases, but it is not as good as condoms at this.

  • The diaphragm does not contain any hormones or, chemicals, unless spermicide is used.

  • Your previous fertility will return immediately after the diaphragm is removed.

  • It does not interrupt sex if you put it in beforehand.

What else should you know?

  • You need to be comfortable using the diaphragm and inserting it yourself into your vagina.

  • The diaphragm can be used after an abortion but only once your womb has returned to normal size. This is normally around six weeks after an abortion.

Day to day life with your diaphragm

  • You should normally wait six hours after sex before taking the diaphragm out to make sure sperm does not travel into your womb.

  • After use, wash the diaphragm in warm water with mild, unperfumed soap if you have it, and rinse thoroughly.

  • When not using it you need to keep the diaphragm in a cool, dry, clean place, out of the sun.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Will my partner feel the diaphragm during sex?
    Very few men say they can feel the diaphragm. Most do not feel it.

  2. Can the diaphragm enter into and get stuck in the womb?
    No. The diaphragm cannot pass into the womb.

Find out about other short term contraceptive methods

Compare methods

Compare different contraceptive methods, and see how well they work at preventing pregnancy.

Compare methods