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

What is a diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a type of contraception that women can use to avoid getting pregnant. It is a piece of soft silicone in the shape of a dome and sits inside the vagina. It is moved up and positioned to cover the cervix, this prevents sperm from entering the uterus (womb).

Once you insert a diaphragm, it is held in place by the pelvic muscles. You do not need a doctor to insert it, although it is a good idea to see a health professional to learn how to insert it and check the diaphragm fits the 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 repeatedly, and it can last up to 2 years if you look after it.

What types of diaphragms are available?

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 effective is the diaphragm as a contraceptive?

Diaphragms work fairly well if they are put in place and used correctly, but are not as effective as the pill, a contraceptive implant or an IUD. If 100 women use a diaphragm for a year, around 18 will likely get pregnant.

When used with another barrier method, such as the condom, the effectiveness of the diaphragm is increased

What could go wrong?

The diaphragm cannot protect you from getting pregnant if it is not put in the correct place, or moves out of place during sex.

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).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the diaphragm?

Some of the main advantages are that it:

  • does not 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 a 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: March 2021


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

Contraception

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

If you are going to have sex, but do not want to get pregnant, you must use a contraceptive.There are many different types of contraception and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages

Read more on WA Health 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 | Jean Hailes

There are many different methods of contraception to avoid pregnancy including the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), the mini-pill, a condom, an intrauterine…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health 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 ReachOut.com. From STIs to contraception, we can answer all your questions.

Read more on ReachOut.com 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) - MyDr.com.au

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

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