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Diaphragm for Birth Control: Care Instructions

Picture of a diaphragm and where it fits in the vagina

Your Care Instructions

Diaphragms are not widely available in Canada. Buying the necessary spermicidal jelly to use with the diaphragm is difficult.

The diaphragm is used to prevent pregnancy. A diaphragm is called a barrier method because it keeps the sperm and eggs apart. It is made of rubber or silicone and shaped like a dome, and it has a firm, flexible rim. It fits inside your vagina and covers the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus.

You use the diaphragm each time you have intercourse. The diaphragm will last for 1 to 2 years.

Your doctor will fit you for the diaphragm and give you a prescription for it. Your doctor may ask you to come back to make sure you know how to insert the diaphragm and use it correctly.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How do you care for yourself at home?

How do you use the diaphragm?

  • Insert the diaphragm each time you have intercourse. Read the instructions for how to insert the diaphragm. It must be done correctly to protect against pregnancy. In general:
    • Apply spermicide (contraceptive jelly) to the diaphragm according to the directions.
    • Insert the diaphragm all the way into your vagina. Be sure it is covering the cervix.
    • Remove the diaphragm by hooking the front rim with your finger and pulling it out.
  • You can insert the diaphragm up to 6 hours before you have intercourse. In most cases, neither you nor your partner will feel the diaphragm during intercourse. If you do feel it, check to make sure it is in position.
  • Leave the diaphragm in place for 6 to 8 hours after intercourse. Do not leave it in for longer than 24 hours.
  • If you have sex more than one time when the diaphragm is in place, apply more spermicide.
  • Avoid using any petroleum-based vaginal creams, oils, or ointments, which can damage a rubber diaphragm. But water-based personal lubricants, such as Astroglide and K-Y Jelly, are safe to use.

What if you think the diaphragm is not placed correctly or not protecting you from pregnancy?

  • Always read the instructions.
  • Call your doctor or nurse call line and use backup birth control, such as a condom, or don't have intercourse until you know the diaphragm is working.
  • If you had intercourse, you can get emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is prescribed by a doctor. This includes the copper IUD (inserted by a doctor) or a prescription pill. You can also get emergency contraceptive pills without a prescription at most drugstores and sexual health clinics.

What else do you need to know?

  • Diaphragms are not widely available in Canada. Buying the necessary spermicidal jelly to use with the diaphragm is difficult.
  • Spermicide used with the diaphragm may cause an allergic reaction. It can cause itching or sores in the vagina or on the penis.
  • Don't use the diaphragm during your period. Use another method, such as a condom, or don't have intercourse.
  • Check the diaphragm often. Get a new diaphragm if you see holes, tears, or discoloration.
  • If you gain or lose a lot of weight, have abdominal surgery, or have a baby, talk to your doctor to see if you need a different size.
  • Wash the diaphragm with warm water and hand soap after removing it. Thoroughly dry it and store it in its container. Do not use talcum or baby powder on the diaphragm because these products may break down a rubber diaphragm or irritate the vagina.
  • The diaphragm doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV/AIDS. If you're not sure whether your sex partner might have an STI, use a condom to protect against infection. Using a condom with the diaphragm also protects better against pregnancy.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.