HOW does a diaphragm WORK? The diaphragm is a rubber cap with a flexible spring rim. It holds contraceptive cream or jelly which contain spermicide. Spermicides are chemicals that kill sperm, certain bacteria, and some viruses. You can buy a spermicide in a drug store or a supermarket without a doctor's prescription. Only products with the words "spermicide" or "non-oxynol 9" on the label give you this protection. Certain other creams and jellies are only used for extra lubrication (to make the walls of the vagina more slippery). Lubricants do not prevent pregnancy or HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In fact, some lubricants such as baby oil, hand lotions, Crisco, Vaseline, etc., can actually dissolve the material a diaphragm is made from, something you wouldn't want to have happen!!
When the diaphragm is loaded with spermicide, it is folded and inserted into the vagina. Once it is in place the rim springs open and completely covers the cervix (opening to the uterus), blocking sperm from entering the uterus, fertilizing an egg and causing pregnancy.
HOW IS a diaphragm USED? A medical examination is needed to make sure the diaphragm is the right size. (This is very important and the reason you can't borrow a friend's diaphragm and expect to get good protection.) Because the spermicide used with the diaphragm will lose its power after 2 hours, the diaphragm has to be inserted less than two hours before sexual intercourse. A new application of spermicide is needed before each act of intercourse. A diaphragm must be left in place for at least 6 hours after intercourse (to make sure the spermicide has killed the sperm collected). The diaphragm should not be left in for more than 24 hours as you might get an infection. Once a diaphragm is taken out, it needs to be washed, dried, and properly stored until you need to insert it again.
Benefits to using a diaphragm: Using a diaphragm causes no major health concerns. Spermicide cream or jelly for use with diaphragm can be bought in any drugstore without a doctor's prescription. If properly cared for, a diaphragm can be used for several years.
Concerns connected to using a diaphragm: Diaphragms can be difficult to insert. Because of the cream or jelly they can be messy. Occasionally a man or woman is allergic to a brand of cream or jelly (burning or itching). (This can be solved by changing brands.) The use of diaphragms may increase risk of urinary tract infections (bladder infections). A diaphragm does not provide reliable protection against STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases).
Effectiveness:This depends on how carefully partners use it. Using a diaphragm along with a spermicide is 82%-97% effective. The high number results from using it exactly according to directions every single time. Even so, in a year, for every 100 women using a diaphragm with spermicide, 3 of them will get pregnant.
The low number (mostly due to an improperly inserted, or improperly fitted diaphragm) means that in a year, for every 100 women using a diaphragm with spermicide, as many as 18 of them will get pregnant. Without spermicide, the effectiveness rate of diaphragms is much lower.
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last updated January 30, 2008
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