#3 Will You Get Pregnant Using a Diaphragm?

Will You Get Pregnant Using a Diaphragm?

Science tells us whether or not to trust them

Birth Control Diaphragm OMGyn.com
Warning: Contains explicit content ♦ & is not to be used as medical advice ♥ Disclaimer here.
Many thanks to the ladies at OMGyn.com for this image

Last time we talked about how to get a diaphragm and how to use it properly but what about the hard and fast facts of avoiding pregnancy...

Isn’t using a diaphragm pretty risky?


'Then why do I see it at the bottom of all those effectiveness tables, and why has my doctor told me not to use it?'

To answer this we need to consider a few things including the perfect use, the typical use and YOU

  • Perfect use efficacy: is how good a contraception can be in theory.
  • Typical use efficacy: is based on how well a contraception is used on average; taking into account the fact that humans often cock up or get unexpectedly drunk and horny.

A diaphragm may be 98% effective at protecting you from pregnancy with perfect use or a less impressive 87% with typical Average Joe use.

How does this compare to other methods?


This means that average diaphragm users enjoy better success rates than average condom users.

I’ve split condoms, put them on the wrong way, got sick of them, thrown them off, forgotten them, run out of them, pretended not to have any, etc, so I guess in my lifetime my ‘typical use’ stats for condoms wouldn’t be that great, but when I ACTUALLY use them, and use them properly, they work and I have complete faith in them.

Similarly, when using a diaphragm you could put it in wrong, take it out too soon, accidentally leave it at someone's house... etc but if you ACTUALLY use it, and use it correctly, it will do it’s job effectively.

 I've used the diaphragm for 4 years and would never use anything else again. It's a lot easier than it sounds and very reliable if used correctly. Go to a family planning clinic or specialist nurse for the best fitting and advice.


The 'Typical Use' is how well any old muppet uses it; but you’re going to be committed and careful aren’t you! So, how well does a diaphragm work if you use it perfectly? You need to know that if you’re doing everything right your little diaphragm pal isn’t going to let you down.

No contraception is 100% perfect but it’s not that reassuring to see anything lower than 99, in my mind.

Most hormonal birth control is said to be theoretically 99% effective, in a perfect world, whereas male condoms are only at 98%. Sometimes its best to forget the stats and think about what makes sense. For example, if I was on the pill and I gained some weight (weight gain can reduce efficacy) how would I know at what point it becomes less effective?  Whereas if I use a condom I know exactly how careful I've been each and every time.

Official Mug My Little Pony
Don't be an official mug. If you're using barrier birth control; you have to actually USE IT when you go riding

Anyway, all is not lost! There isn’t a universally defined way of ‘perfectly’ using a diaphragm and I hypothesise that this is what drags down its rating.

Specifically, the guidelines around spermicide vary greatly (which one is best, do you absolutely have to re-apply each time you f*ck, how much do you need - see Guide #2 for spermicide info) as does, perhaps most crucially, the recommended length of time you have to leave them in after sex. If you take a diaphragm out too early there may still be live sperm lurking around that haven’t yet been killed by your spermicide or by your own Hostile Fanny Juice. Whilst it is unlikely that any remaining sperm will still be functioning (they mostly wither within 30 minutes and really rely on the powerful force of ejaculation to get them to your cervix); they have been found to be motile for up to 12 hours in a vagina in some circumstances. Most sources recommend leaving a diaphragm in for a minimum of 6 hours after sex

Whilst millions of women have been remaining baby-free for decades thanks to their diaphragms; perhaps if this time limit was increased, say from 6 hours to 12, they would be statistically more effective.

Often when large scale contraception studies are done these days; diaphragms are just lumped in with other methods or completely ignored.

 I have used a diaphragm for 20 years - I love it

So is it effective ENOUGH?

Yes, as long as you wear it and wear it right! And actually enjoy using it; not everyone falls in love with their diaphragm but you won’t know until you try. If for whatever reason you don't love your new vagina accessory, even after giving yourself time to get used to it, find a different method.

Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross singing the diaphragm praises (FYI diaphragms are usually silicone now, not latex). These women are FANTASTIC.

It's only natural to be sceptical. Whilst you are first getting confident relying on a diaphragm you could take some extra precautions (see The Diaphragm Guide #2 for beginners advice).

If you use an app to track when your period is due; you could figure out when you're likely to be ovulating (usually around day 12-14) and set an alarm that goes off a few days before and after. This will remind you that you’re possibly ovulating and so you could use withdrawal with your diaphragm as well. This is by no means necessary, but it’s like a nice security blanket as you’re combining The Rhythm Method with A Diaphragm with Withdrawal and combining methods of contraception leads to ultra high efficacy (if you have a partner it would be worth setting this alarm on their phone too). 

Of course, following this line of thought, it's worth noting that diaphragms only need to be used a few days of the month anyway because there are only a few days you can pregnant. However, if you don't have the motivation to take your temperature and check your fanny juice and figure out when you're truly ovulating; you'll have to stick it in every time.

 I have used a diaphragm long term successfully. I had 2 planned pregnancies over a period of 16 years... I then had an unplanned pregnancy as I forgot to use it - I was tired from a night shift and was not supposed to be home that weekend! (So not a diaphragm failure!) Thereafter till now I have used it for 15 years successfully... It is very do-able!

All I would add is that you just have to be on the case if you're using one all the time and having a lot of sex. For example at the beginning of a relationship when you're high as a kite on love and d*ck - be extra careful.

As a new user I recommend joining this amazing Yahoo group so you can get lots of support and advice, and get tips from women who are in the same, sperm-proof, boat as you.

Stay tuned for the final post in The Sceptical Lady's Guide to the Diaphragm - where we go into all the pros and cons so you can figure out once and for all if The Diaphragm Life is the life For You.

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