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How to Use a Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a way to prevent pregnancy. It keeps sperm from reaching the uterus. A diaphragm is a small rubber device that is shaped like a bowl.

Sperm-killing jelly is placed into the bowl. Then, it is folded flat. It is placed in the vagina before having sex.

16 in 100 women who use a diaphragm become pregnant each year. Pregnancy often happens because the diaphragm is not used the way it should be.

A diaphragm must be fitted by a doctor. This is to make sure it is the right size and fit for your body.

What You Will Need

  • Soap and water
  • Diaphragm
  • Sperm-killing jelly or cream

Steps to Take

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. How to Use a Diaphragm_2 Put 1 tablespoon of the jelly or cream into the center of the diaphragm’s bowl.
  3. How to Use a Diaphragm_3 Coat the inside rim of the diaphragm with a thin layer of the jelly. Avoid putting jelly on the outside rim because it will make the diaphragm hard to hold.
  4. Hold the diaphragm in an upright position to keep the jelly from spilling out.
  5. How to Use a Diaphragm_4 Bend the diaphragm by pushing the 2 sides together between your thumb and your fingers. Now, it is ready to be placed in the vagina.
  6. Find a comfortable position for placing the diaphragm. Try standing with one foot on the toilet, squatting, or lying on your back with your knees up and legs apart.
  7. How To Use a Diaphragm_6_text Place the diaphragm into the vagina. Start pushing the folded diaphragm into the vagina. Then push it upward and toward the top of your vagina. Release the diaphragm so that it opens up. Use your fingers to push the rim in the front into place until it feels secure.
  8. How to Use a Diaphragm_7 When you touch the cervix, it should feel like touching the tip of the nose. When your diaphragm is in place, the cervix should be fully covered by the bowl of the diaphragm. Also, the rim of the diaphragm should fit snugly in place.
  9. The diaphragm may be placed just before having sex or up to 4 hours ahead of time. After having sex, it must be left in place for at least 6 hours. Be sure to remove the diaphragm within 24 hours after having sex.
  10. How To Use a Diaphragm_9 To take out the diaphragm, insert 1 or 2 fingers into the vagina. Pull down on the front rim of the diaphragm.
  11. Wash the diaphragm with soap and water. Dry the diaphragm and store it in a cool, dry place.

Common Questions

Q. I lost a lot of weight and now my diaphragm doesn’t stay in place. Do I need a new one?

A. Yes. The fit should be checked by your doctor any time after you lose more than 10 pounds, feel that it does not fit as it should, or have a baby. Your diaphragm should be replaced every 2 years.

Q. What if I want to have sex again within 6 hours, and before removing my diaphragm?

A. Do not remove the diaphragm. You will need to place more sperm-killing jelly into the vagina with an applicator.

Q. Will the diaphragm protect me from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like HIV?

A. No, a condom is the only type of birth control that can help protect you from STIs.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of these problems:

  • Pain when you have sex and the diaphragm is in place
  • Soreness or rash in the vaginal area
  • Signs of a bladder infection such as:
    • Passing urine often
    • Urgent need to pass urine
    • Burning or pain when passing urine
    • Foul smelling urine
    • Fever
  • Have unusual or foul smelling discharge from the vagina

Possible problems to watch out for:

  • Cracks, tears, or holes in the diaphragm
    • Note: Do not use oil-based vaginal lubricants with the diaphragm. This can cause problems with the device, like breaking down the rubber.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists


Sex and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital


Birth control: How to use a diaphragm. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/birth-control-how-to-use-your-diaphragm. Updated May 8, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2019.

Contraception overview. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116955/Contraception-overview. Updated November 12, 2018. Accessed March 6, 2019.

Diaphragm. Planned Parenthood website. Available at: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/diaphragm. Accessed March 6, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 3/6/2019