What about the Contraceptive Diaphragm?

One of the oldest methods of birth control disappeared quietly from American pharmacies in 2014. Now health care professionals can only order the diaphragm from Cooper Surgical, causing delays and hassle for women.

For decades, the diaphragm was THE contraceptive option for women. But today, many think the diaphragm is old school and outdated. I consider the diaphragm “vintage” and a valuable option deserving contemporary consideration.

Before the pill, the diaphragm was the only prescription birth control method.
This was before the women’s movement, before most women were able to take charge of themselves in marriage and sexual relations. Effective use of the diaphragm requires a woman to learn about her body and become knowledgeable & comfortable with her vagina and cervix.

One of the truly most important accomplishments of the women’s movement of the 1960-1970’s was the growing awareness by women that they could be in control of the lives and their bodies. The diaphragm is a method for women in control of themselves and their sexual behavior.

Other’s opinions
Tracey Koehlmoos wrote: Whatever happened to the diaphragm?
“When I went to my American nurse practitioner in Jakarta, she laughed at me for wanting the birth control of the last Millennium and then notified me that she does not even have the tools to measure for one and order it……What has happened to the women’s movement…. (Why is it) that every advocated form of birth control in family planning programs has become body altering and long lasting?”

Tracey asked for women and professionals to reconsider the diaphragm because there are no hormones, it’s not permanent, and women are in control of it! The diaphragm is one of the few methods that have the potential to empower women (and men) by requiring negotiation, consent and action. 

Elizabeth Kissling wrote in Where’d the Diaphragm Disappear To? June 24, 2010
“...nearly four of every ten women who use contraceptives are not satisfied with their method, and I hear frequently from young women that they’re pressured at college health centers and physicians’ offices to choose hormonal methods.” (and IUDs)  

Yes, hormonal methods/the pill and IUDs are very effective, but they are not for everyone. 

My Story
I used a diaphragm for 15 years. In college, I started the birth control pill but got recurrent yeast infections and cried almost every day I took the pill. As a naïve young woman, I was attracted to the IUD that was popular at the time, the Dalkon Shield, but was later very glad I didn’t use it. When I went to get fitted for the diaphragm at the University of Texas Health Center, Dr. June Richardson said “You’ll just get pregnant because you won’t use it!”

The challenge was on. I used it correctly and never had an unplanned pregnancy using the diaphragm. My yeast infections went away and I stopped crying every day. Problem solved!

I stopped using it after my third baby was born because my vaginal architecture changed and it pressed on my bladder and bothered me. I started using a Prentiff Cervical Cap. That too has been discontinued in the United States, which is another story entirely!

Efficacy and Usage
If used correctly every single time, the diaphragm is 97% effective, comparable to condoms in efficacy. Many health professionals quote the “use” effectiveness of the diaphragm which is about 84%. This includes cases in which the diaphragm is not used correctly, so the number is not truly accurate. Women hear or read about the “use” effectiveness and are scared off.  

The diaphragm is not perfect. The spermicide is a little messy and doesn’t taste good.  Some women experience disruptions to their friendly vaginal bacteria from the spermicide.

While a great option for many, women who are not in control of their lives due to substance abuse, lack of information, and disempowering relationships should not use the diaphragm.

The diaphragm requires a healthcare professional: doctor, nurse etc. to fit the diaphragm. It must be put in the vagina before intercourse with spermicidal jelly, and left in place for 6 hours after intercourse. Normally neither partner should feel anything different.

If you happen to be in Europe, you can get a Caya Diaphragm without a prescription, but you can’t get it in the United States.