Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Diaphragm (contraceptive device)

4-minute read

The diaphragm is a type of contraception that women can use to avoid getting pregnant. It sits inside the vagina and prevents sperm reaching the womb.

What is a diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a piece of soft silicone in the shape of a dome. You put it into your vagina and move it up to cover the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus (womb).

Once you insert a diaphragm, it is held in place by your pelvic muscles. You don't need a doctor to insert it, although it is a good idea to see a health professional to learn how to insert it and whether the diaphragm fits your cervix.

How does the diaphragm work?

Illustration showing an example of a diaphragm.
A diaphragm is a piece of soft silicone in the shape of a dome. Once you put in into your vagina to cover the cervix, it is held in place by your pelvic muscles.

During sex, the diaphragm stops sperm from entering the uterus. It forms a physical barrier between the man's sperm and the woman's egg, like a condom. So it is sometimes called a barrier method of contraception.

The diaphragm needs to stay in place for at least 6 hours after sex. After 6 — but no longer than 24 hours after sex — it needs to be taken out and cleaned.

You can use the same diaphragm more than once, and it can last up to 2 years if you look after it.

Types of diaphragm

Caya is the only type of diaphragm available in Australia. It comes in only one size, and fits about 8 women out of 10. A health professional will be able to help you select another form of contraception if the diaphragm is not suitable for you.

How well does the diaphragm work?

Diaphragms work fairly well if they are put in place and used correctly, but not as well as the pill, a contraceptive implant or an IUD. If 100 women use a diaphragm for a year, around 12 will likely get pregnant.

Family Planning NSW has a full range of fact sheets on contraception, including information on diaphragms and how to use them.

When used with another barrier method, such as the condom, their effectiveness is increased.

What could go wrong?

The diaphragm can’t protect you from getting pregnant if it is not put in place properly, or moves out of place during sex. A health professional can show you how to fit a diaphragm before you use it for the first time.

If you take it out before 6 hours have passed after sex you risk becoming pregnant.

Your diaphragm could also break, tear, or develop tiny holes — which happens as it gets older — and this too could lead to an unintended pregnancy. You should examine your diaphragm for damage prior to using.

If you had a problem when using a diaphragm and are worried you could have become pregnant, you might want to consider taking emergency contraception, available from your doctor, chemist, health centre or family planning clinic. This should be taken as soon as possible (within 5 days, but sooner is better).

Advantages and disadvantages of the diaphragm

Some of the main advantages are that it:

  • doesn't contain any hormones (and can be used if you are breastfeeding)
  • only needs to be used when having sex
  • can protect against pregnancy straight away
  • can be used more than once

The main disadvantages are that:

  • it is less effective than many other methods of contraception
  • some women find a diaphragm difficult to insert and risk placing it incorrectly
  • it needs to be inserted into the vagina before sex
  • inserting and removing it may be uncomfortable, and may increase the risk of urinary tract infection

Diaphragms and STIs

A diaphragm won’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – only condoms can do that, and even condoms won’t protect you against every STI.

Find out more about sexual health here.

More information

See Family Planning NSW, which has a full range of fact sheets on contraception, including diaphragms and how to use them, and Jean Hailes for Women 's Health.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Contraception - diaphragms - Better Health Channel

The diaphragm acts as a barrier method of contraception.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Contraceptive Diaphragm | Family Planning NSW

A diaphragm is a barrier method of contraception for women. It's a shallow dome of silicone with a firm and flexible rim.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Hiccups: why do we hiccup? -

Sometimes hiccups can be a sign of an underlying disease. For hiccups that have gone on for 2 days or longer, or are recurrent, see your doctor.

Read more on myDr website


Contraception is the use of hormones, devices or surgery to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. It allows couples to choose if and when they want to have a baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Contraception choices | Family Planning NSW

Contraception is necessary if you wish to avoid an unintended pregnancy. Several methods of contraception are available - check out this factsheet to find out more information.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Contraception Options TINO : Tune In Not Out

What options are there and how do they work?

Read more on Tune In Not Out website

Your how-to guide for safe sex | Sex | ReachOut Australia

Feeling ready to have sex? Find out how to stay safe with this guide from From STIs to contraception, we can answer all your questions.

Read more on website

Diet and medication while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding mothers don't need a special diet. But small amounts of what you consume can enter breast milk, so knowing what's safe is important. Learn more.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Urinary tract infection (UTI) -

Urinary tract infection occurs when part of the urinary tract becomes infected. UTIs are usually caused by bacteria and generally clear up with a course of antibiotics.

Read more on myDr website

Latex allergy - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Latex allergy

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo