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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Diaphragm


Alternate Names : Vaginal Diaphragm

Overview & Description

The diaphragm is a barrier method of contraception. It is a round rubber dome that fits inside a woman's vagina. It covers the cervix to prevent pregnancy. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus that attaches to the vagina.

What is the information for this topic?

Diaphragms are circular rubber rings that come in a variety of sizes. Diaphragms fit inside the vagina and cover the cervix. This prevents sperm from traveling to the uterus to fertilize an egg.

A spermicide should also be used with this barrier method. It should be placed in the cup portion of the diaphragm that covers the cervix. It should also be applied around the flexible ring that conforms to the vaginal walls. The diaphragm should be inserted 20 minutes before intercourse. The diaphragm should be left in place for 6 to 8 hours following intercourse. If intercourse occurs again within these 6 hours, another application of spermicide is needed. The diaphragm should not be left in place for any longer than 24 hours. The use of spermicides does not effectively prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

A healthcare provider must measure a woman's vagina prior to prescribing a diaphragm. This is done by performing a pelvic examination to determine the correct size of the diaphragm for the individual. A well-fitted diaphragm will ensure the lowest pregnancy rate possible with this method. A woman will also learn about use, care and problems during the exam.

Failures associated with diaphragm use may be due to improper fitting or changes in a woman's weight. This can cause a bad fit. The diaphragm may then become dislodged during intercourse. Side effects include irritation of the vaginal wall, allergic reaction to the spermicide and an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

Diaphragms do not guarantee that pregnancy will not occur. The only guarantee against pregnancy is abstinence, which means no sexual intercourse.


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Author: Eva Martin, MD
Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Date Reviewed: 05/02/01

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