Caps and diaphragms

photo of Caps and diaphragms

A diaphragm (or cap) is a soft, silicone dome that covers the cervix (the entrance to the uterus). If used properly, it is just as reliable as other contraceptives.

How does it work?

You insert the diaphragm into your vagina, no more than 2 hours before you have sex. First, you put some spermicide on the diaphragm. Then you slide it into your vagina, just like a tampon. After sex, leave the diaphragm in for at least 6 hours.

Using it again

When you take it out of your vagina, rinse the diaphragm well with lukewarm water to clean it. Now it is ready to use again. You can use the same diaphragm for up to 2 years. It doesn’t protect against STIs.

Where can you get a diaphragm or cap?

You can buy a standard size at chemists, pharmacies or online. But some girls and women need a different size. They can be fitted with that by their doctor. If you would like to know what size you need, go to your doctor, a gynaecologist or obstetrician, or a Sense clinic.

What you need to do

  • Practise a couple of times with inserting your diaphragm. Practice makes perfect!
  • Aren’t you sure whether it fits properly? Have it checked by your doctor, a gynaecologist or obstetrician, or a Sense clinic.
  • Do you use a lubricant during sex? Then choose a water-based one. Other types of lubricants could damage the diaphragm!
  • Check the diaphragm for any damage as you are rinsing it under the tap.

Your period

A diaphragm or cap has no effect on your period.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • You only need to use it when you have sex.
  • It is not expensive.
  • You don’t need a prescription to get one.
  • You won’t have any side effects from hormones.
  • You can’t feel it.
  • You still have your period as usual.
  • Once you’ve stopped using a diaphragm, you are fertile again.


  • A diaphragm can be difficult to insert properly.
  • It’s not as reliable as other contraceptives because it can be difficult to insert.
  • You have to remember to put it in before having sex.
  • You need to apply spermicide every time you use it.
  • Sometimes it causes more vaginal discharge and irritation.
  • You can’t use it to control your period.
  • A diaphragm doesn’t protect against STIs.

When do you run the risk of pregnancy?

If you insert the diaphragm into your vagina more than 2 hours before having sex. Then the spermicide will no longer be effective. If the diaphragm doesn’t completely cover the cervix. Or if you forget to put spermicide on the diaphragm.


Remember: a diaphragm or cap doesn’t protect against STIs. To prevent STIs, you should use condoms

What do you know about contraception?

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