How to use the diaphragm

You can now get a diaphragm from a pharmacy and from some online stores. You can get the spermicide to use with it from a pharmacy too, or from your local sexual health clinic.

It’s a good idea to practice applying the spermicide and inserting the diaphragm a few times before you have sex using the diaphragm.

You should be able to re-use your diaphragm for up to 2 years. Check it regularly for holes or tears and keep it clean between uses.

Traditionally diaphragms came in different sizes and you’d need a health professional to help you find the size to fit you. Now a single-size diaphragm that fits most people is available.

Using your diaphragm

Always check your diaphragm for holes or tears before use. Be careful with your fingernails and jewellery. If your diaphragm goes out of shape, squeeze it gently back into its circular shape.

If you notice any damage or holes on your diaphragm, do not use it. Use another contraception and get a new diaphragm as soon as you can.

You can insert it anytime in the 3 hours before sex. If you don’t have sex within 3 hours, you’ll need to apply more spermicide. If you haven’t had any sexual contact yet, you can take the diaphragm out to do this. If you're having sex again, you'll need to keep the diaphragm in to protect against any sperm already in your vagina, and add more spermicide with an applicator.

Inserting the diaphragm

  • with clean hands, put 2 2cm-long lines of spermicide on the middle of the diaphragm – putting a little spermicide on the edges can make the diaphragm easier to put in

  • put your index finger and thumb on the edges of the diaphragm and fold it inwards – the arrow on your diaphragm needs to point towards your body

  • slide the diaphragm into your vagina, upwards and towards your back – the diaphragm should sit completely inside your vagina – you should not be able to see it or feel it at all once it's in place

  • always check that your cervix is covered by the diaphragm – to do this, you need to be able to feel your cervix

    • your cervix feels like a lump at the top of the vagina, a bit like the end of your nose – the cervix feels smooth, unlike the walls of the vagina which feel slightly rough

    • try feeling your cervix before you insert the diaphragm

    • once the diaphragm is in place you should be able to feel your cervix through the membrane of the diaphragm

    • if your cervix is not covered by the diaphragm, take the diaphragm out then try again

Extra spermicide is added using something a bit like a tampon applicator. You can buy it from the same place that you get your spermicide or from a sexual health clinic. It has a plastic tube and a plunger. You fill the plastic tube with spermicide and use the plunger to push the spermicide into the top of the vagina.

It’s very important that you do not remove the diaphragm to apply more spermicide if you have sex again. You must leave it in for at least 6 hours after you’ve finished having sex. You can leave it in longer but do not exceed 24 hours.

Removing the diaphragm

  • with clean hands, reach a finger towards the diaphragm and pull it out using the removal dome - this is a small bump in the design that helps you remove or reposition the diaphragm

Looking after your diaphragm

You should be able to reuse your diaphragm for up to 2 years. But take care not to damage it, or it could become less effective.

After use, wash your diaphragm with warm water and mild, unperfumed soap. Rinse it thoroughly, then leave to dry.

You’ll be given a small container for it, which you should keep in a cool, dry place.

Never boil your diaphragm, and never use disinfectant or detergent to clean it. It may become discoloured, but this does not affect how well it works.

Do not use talcum powder with it or any oil-based products with it, like baby lotion, bath oils, moisturiser or some vaginal medicines (like creams or pessaries).

Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.