Every woman has a story about how she settled on her choice of birth control. We asked one woman why she has chosen a relatively old-fashioned method: the diaphragm.
Why did you choose to get a diaphragm?
My first few sexual experiences were with guys I wasn’t serious with and we just used condoms. When I got my first boyfriend age 21 we wanted to stop using condoms after a month or so. I didn’t think twice about going on the Pill because so many of my friends were on it. Back then people spoke less about these things and I had no idea about the potential side effects.
I started taking the Pill and gained about 5kgs, had a significantly lower sex drive and felt quite ‘numb’ in general. I just thought it was the sacrifice I had to make to not get pregnant and stuck with it for a year. When we broke up I stopped taking the Pill because I was so heartbroken I couldn’t imagine ever having sex again (LOL).
When I become sexually active again I used condoms, but then I met my current boyfriend. We used condoms for a while but it was a big issue for us and our sex life. He couldn’t keep an erection with a condom on. At all. Every time we had sex he would go soft and it was really upsetting for both of us. I knew I didn’t want to go on the Pill again, though, and researched non-hormonal contraceptives. The diaphragm seemed easy and inexpensive and it’s worked for us for nearly two years now.
What does using a diaphragm involve?
You can’t just buy a diaphragm at the pharmacy; you have to get fitted. Your gynae will try a few different sizes to see which one fits inside you most comfortably. The diaphragm looks like the top bit of a sphere and has a lip around the bottom of it. The domed part actually faces downwards so the lipped bit covers the entrance to your cervix.
To use it you need to squirt some spermicidal cream inside the domed part and spread it around with your finger. There are two notches on either side of the lip that you squeeze together to compress the diaphragm before you insert it. Then you squat and pop it in – it’s not dissimilar to putting in a tampon. You need to poke the dome with your finger once it’s inside to make sure that it’s sitting against your cervix. You shouldn’t really notice it once it’s in properly. I give a hard cough while squatting to double-check it doesn’t shift at all.
When you’re done having sex you need to leave it in for six to 12 hours. If you have sex again within that period, first squirt some more spermicidal cream inside your vagina and then count sex to 12 hours from that second sex session before you take it out.
What are the benefits of the diaphragm?
Not having to use condoms is a huge relief for my sex life. It’s also easy to use once you’ve got the hang of inserting it (I’d recommend practising a few times by yourself first). The biggest benefit for me is not putting hormones into my body. I feel way happier knowing that I’m not messing up my body’s balance in any way. I also like getting my period every month. It feels natural and it’s also a very clear indicator that I’m not pregnant. When I was on the Pill and skipping it, I always had a little worry at the back of my mind that I could be the one percent that fell pregnant on the Pill.
What are the downsides of the diaphragm?
The diaphragm is only 87% effective. Because of this I also use a fertility tracking app. With the two combined, I feel relaxed and pretty certain that I’m not going to get pregnant. This means I measure my temperature every day (I use Natural Cycles) and we actually only use the diaphragm on days when I’m fertile.
If I wasn’t in a committed relationship and having casual sex, I would probably go back to using condoms because the diaphragm doesn’t protect you from STDs. However, while in a relationship I am totally sold on the diaphragm and really happy with using it.
Another downside is that you need to remember to take it out, otherwise you could get toxic shock syndrome. You also need to make sure it’s super-clean before you put it in and I check it for any holes beforehand too. If you look after yours properly (by cleaning it and keeping it in its case) it should last you about six years.
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