In 2017, we've never been more savvy with our contraception than we are now. Women across the globe are getting increasingly varied options for birth control. But at the same time, there are some types of female contraceptives that seem to be forever shrouded in mystery. One such example is the diaphragm, one of the OG birth controls that seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. In a time when more women than ever have so much access to contraceptive options, it makes you wonder: What is a diaphragm, and does anyone actually use one?
To put it simply, a diaphragm is a shallow, flexible cup that you fit deep inside your vagina. It covers your cervix to prevent sperm from fertilizing your eggs.
Unlike most popular forms of birth control (like the pill, the IUD, or the patch), diaphragms don't have any hormonal effect on your body. They merely serve as a literal barrier between sperm and egg. They're basically like a condom for your cervix (if you want to use a definition that makes you uncomfortable in ways you can't explain). But seriously, it's true!
The diaphragm is similar to a condom because, unlike most other forms of birth control, it works in a physical capacity rather than a chemical one.
Oh, and did I mention spermicide? Because that's a thing, and in fact, it's a mandatory, very important kind of thing when it comes to using a diaphragm. It's suggested — but honestly, high-key really required — that you put spermicide inside of the diaphragm cup before inserting it into your vagina. So, yeah, you have to buy spermicide, which is kind of a bummer, because like, where do you even buy that sh*t?
The diaphragm doesn't stay in all the time, either. You need to put it in before sex, and you have to keep it in after sex for at least six hours (for the spermicide to work its magic), but you don't keep it in permanently the same way you would with an IUD, for example. When you want to take your diaphragm out, you can gently hook the cup out with a clean finger and just simply pull it out. You wash it with clean water, and reuse as needed.
It should be pretty clear by now why most people are opting for other forms of birth control these days, instead of the diaphragm.
A diaphragm definitely requires a little bit more work than most other forms of birth control, not to mention additional tools to ensure that it's working effectively (hello spermicide).
But if you're not already starting to understand why the diaphragm was last discussed in a Sex and the City episode from the '90s, consider this: A diaphragm's effectiveness only hovers around 88 percent, which is way lower than the pill (91 to 99 percent), the IUD (99 percent), the shot (98 percent), and the patch (91 to 99 percent).
Considering that a condom is around 85 percent effective with real-life use, a diaphragm doesn't really provide much additional reassurance. So it only makes sense that birth control options like the IUD have become so popular in recent years, since that near-perfect efficacy requires little to no daily maintenance.
Birth control should be easy, and put simply, the diaphragm just isn't that easy.
With that said, the diaphragm is still an excellent contraceptive, especially for women who are concerned about hormonal birth controls and their side effects. Let's be clear: All contraceptives are better than nothing. The diaphragm is safe, it's technically more effective than a condom, and for the most part, it is pretty easy to use — it's just not as easy as the other options on the market these days.
If you think you might want to try a diaphragm, make sure to speak with your doctor about what contraceptive option is best for your lifestyle. In terms of money, a diaphragm will cost you anywhere between absolutely nothing and $75, depending on your insurance, and one will last you for about two years. Keep in mind, sometimes your doctor will have to order your diaphragm for you, so you may not be able to get it that quickly.
Knowledge is always power, y'all — especially when it comes to your birth control.