A diaphragm is a soft rubber dome and a cervical cap is a thimble-shaped latex cap. Both are placed inside the vagina, over the cervix. Spermicidal jelly or cream is held in both against the cervix, which kills sperm as they try to reach the uterus.
There are three types of diaphragms currently available:
Coil Spring Diaphragm - Intended for women with strong vaginal tone (good strength of the vaginal muscles) and no genital abnormalities.
Flat Spring Diaphragm - Intended for women with a shallow pubic arch or moderate descent of bladder or rectum.
Arching Spring Diaphragm - Intended for women with weak vaginal tone, moderate descent of the pelvic organs, or with their uterus bent far forward or backward.
All information below this point applies to both diaphragms and cervical caps, even though only the word "diaphragm" is used.
The diaphragm is an effective birth control method, but does not protect against STDs. The diaphragm is 95% effective when always used properly with a spermicide. However, due to occasional misuse, its effectiveness rating is no better than 80%.
Your doctor must take a measurement inside the vagina to choose the correct size of diaphragm for you. Your doctor will then show you how to insert the diaphragm properly. When the diaphragm is properly in place neither partner should notice its' presence.
Before intercourse, one must coat the diaphragm with a spermicide and then insert it. If some of the spermicide gets on the vulva while inserting, wipe it off after fully inserting the diaphragm. After intercourse, the diaphragm must remain inside the vagina for six to eight hours. Add another applicator full of spermicide if intercourse occurs again within the six to eight hours.
Once removed, the diaphragm should be washed with mild soap and water. Next, dry and then dust with cornstarch (Do not use talcum powder) and replace in its container. Check regularly for holes; this can be accomplished by filling it with water. The diaphragm needs to be kept properly stored when not in use. The owner must take full responsibility for the care of the diaphragm. By not properly caring for a diaphragm it will begin to deteriorate and its effectiveness in preventing conception will be greatly reduced.
The diaphragm is ineffective in stopping the spread of STDs.
If used during menstruation it can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome.
If a diaphragm is not removed it may cause a foul smelling discharge from the vagina, low back pain, and general pelvic discomfort. If a diaphragm is too large, it will cause mild discomfort and may cause difficulty urinating. This problem is usually remedied by switching to a smaller diaphragm. Furthermore, the diaphragm can become displaced during sexual intercourse by the penis withdrawing and reinserting repeatedly.