• Easy to use yourself.
  • Suitable for unplanned sex – can be put in up to 2 hours before sex.
  • No health risks.
  • Can be reused for up to a year.
  • No effect on periods.
  • Fertility returns to normal when removed.

Diaphragms are domes made of soft silicone. You insert them into your vagina before sex to cover the cervix, so that sperm cannot get into the womb. You need to use spermicide with them, which kills the sperm. They are useful for women who do not want to use a hormonal or long lasting contraceptive.

The new diaphragm can be purchased from pharmacies. It comes in one size only and therefore does not need to be fitted by a healthcare professional. However, you may wish to visit your local sexual health clinic to discuss how you should fit it.

Reuseable for
1 year
Effect on period
Side effects

*for typical use (effectiveness for perfect use 86-96%)

How it works

How to use it

With clean hands, put a small amount of spermicide on each side of the diaphragm. Slide the cap diaphragm into your vagina, so it covers your cervix.

Why it works

The diaphragm will stop sperm from reaching an egg by covering your cervix while the spermicide kills any sperm.

Things to consider

You have to leave your diaphragm in for 6 hours after you’ve finished having sex.

Some women find they get a bladder infection or some irritation from using a diaphragm, or from the spermicide.

The diaphragm does not protect you against STIs, so you may need to use condoms as well.


Where can I get it?

You can buy diaphragms from pharmacies and some online stores.

Who is the diaphragm not suitable for?

The diaphragm may not be suitable if you:

  • Have an unusually shaped or positioned cervix (entrance to the womb), or if you cannot reach your cervix.
  • Have weakened vaginal muscles (possibly as a result of giving birth) that cannot hold a diaphragm in place.
  • Have a sensitivity or an allergy to the chemicals in spermicide.
  • Have ever had toxic shock syndrome (a rare, but life-threatening bacterial infection).
  • Have repeated urinary tract infections (an infection of the urinary system, such as the urethra, bladder or kidneys).
  • Currently have a vaginal infection (wait until your infection clears before using a diaphragm).
  • Are not comfortable touching your vagina.
  • Have a high risk of getting an STI – for example, if you have multiple sexual partners.

How do I use a diaphragm?

It can take time to learn how to use them.

Before use, check your diaphragm regularly for tears or holes by holding it up to the light and having a good look at it. Be careful with your fingernails and jewellery. If your diaphragm goes out of shape, squeeze it gently back into its circular shape.

Your diaphragm may become discoloured. Don’t worry, this will not make it less effective.

  • You can insert a diaphragm up to 2 hours before you have sex – after this time, you will need to take it out and put some more spermicide on it, or use an applicator to apply more spermicide.
  • With clean hands, put a small amount of spermicide on each side of the diaphragm (also putting a little spermicide on the rim may make the diaphragm easier to put in).
  • Put your index finger on top of the diaphragm and squeeze it between your thumb and other fingers.
  • Slide the diaphragm into your vagina, upwards. This should ensure that the diaphragm covers your cervix.
  • Always check that your cervix is covered – it feels like a lump, a bit like the end of your nose.
  • If your cervix is not covered, take the diaphragm out by hooking your finger under the rim or loop (if there is one) and pulling downwards, then try again.
  • You must leave it in for at least 6 hours after the last time you had sex. You can leave it in longer but do not exceed 24 hours.

After use, you can wash your diaphragm with warm water and mild, unperfumed soap. Rinse it thoroughly, then leave to dry. You will be given a small container for it, which you should keep in a cool, dry place.

Never boil your diaphragm, never use disinfectant or detergent to clean it or use talcum powder with it.

Where do I get spermicide from?

You can get spermicide from a pharmacy or your local sexual health clinic.

What can make the diaphragm less effective?

The diaphragm can become less effective at preventing pregnancy if:

  • It is damaged – for example, it is torn or has holes.
  • It is not the right size for you and doesn’t cover your cervix.
  • You use it without spermicide, or have sex 3 hours or more after you apply spermicide.
  • You do not use extra spermicide with your diaphragm every time you have more sex.
  • You remove it too soon (less than 6 hours after the last time you had sex).
  • You use oil-based products, such as baby lotion, bath oils, moisturiser or some vaginal medicines (for example, pessaries).

If any of these things happen, or you have had sex without contraception, you may need emergency contraception.

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can take preventative medication (PEP) to reduce the chance of becoming infected.

What should I expect if I go to get a diaphragm?
  • A doctor or nurse will explain how to put in and take out the diaphragm and use spermicide.
  • They will ensure you can insert and remove your diaphragm independently before you leave the clinic.
  • You will only need to see a doctor or nurse to replace it or if you have any questions or concerns.

To make an appointment or for further advice, please call:

0300 303 1948

Phoneline open 08:15-16:45 Monday-Friday

(closed 12:30-13:30 for lunch)