Barrier Methods for Women
What is a diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a round latex covering that is wedged into the vagina (from the rear wall of the vagina to the pubic bone) and covers the cervix. The edge of the diaphragm consists of a flexible coiled spring to help keep it in place. The diaphragm requires a doctor's prescription because it must be fitted for size.
How does the diaphragm work?
The diaphragm acts as a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing an egg. Spermicide is placed on the side of the diaphragm that rests against the cervix. Any sperm that squeeze around the edge of the diaphragm are killed by the spermicide.
How effective is the diaphragm?
Annual Failure Rate
The diaphragm has a 13% average annual failure rate among couples using this method for the first time. This failure rate is somewhat lower for married couples at 10% per year, and higher for cohabiting couples at 23%. This method is more effective for women in their thirties than women in their twenties. It is assumed that the diaphragm would be less effective is spermicide is not used.
Side-effects and health risks of the diaphragm:
As with similar methods, women who use the diaphragm are at higher risk of vaginal infection, urinary tract infection, and possibly toxic shock syndrome. Even so, this method is much safer than birth control methods containing hormones, such as oral contraceptives.
Considerations for Christians:
Diaphragms are traditionally marketed to married women. This is because this method can be difficult to use and does not offer much protection from sexually transmitted disease.
A diaphragm is considered artificial contraception, and as such is not permissible for use by Roman Catholics. Most Protestant denominations, however, have no objections to using a diaphragm within marriage.
- More about Diaphragms: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.org)
- More about Cervical Barriers: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.org)
- More about Cervical Caps: Epigee Women's Resources (Epigee.org)
Source for Failure Rates: N Ranjit, A Bankole, JE Darroch, S Singh, "Contraceptive Failure in the First Two Years of Use: Differences Across Socioeconomic Subgroups," Family Planning Perspectives, 2001, 33(1):19-27. (pdf)