Diaphragms and Caps

Diaphragms and Caps: A Guide to Barrier Contraception

Contraception is a critical part of planning a family, and many different methods are available to your female patients. One very effective option is the diaphragm or cap. These barrier methods effectively prevent pregnancy and offer many advantages over other forms of contraception for your patient.

Some female patients you see may not understand all their options regarding contraception, the difference between a cap and a diaphragm, or knowing how barrier methods work.

You can explain that diaphragms and caps are both barrier methods of contraception. They work by covering the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus. This prevents sperm from entering the uterus and fertilising an egg.

You can explain the differences between diaphragms and caps, for example:

  • Diaphragms are made of silicone or latex, and they are available in a variety of sizes. They are inserted into the vagina before sex and should be left in place for at least six hours after sex.
  • Caps are smaller than diaphragms, and they are made of silicone. They are inserted into the vagina and placed directly over the cervix. Caps do not need to be left in place as long as diaphragms, and they can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex.

How effective are diaphragms and caps?

Female patients new to these types of contraception will often ask how effective they are. You can explain and reassure your patients that diaphragms and caps are very effective when used correctly. When used with spermicide, they are 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, the effectiveness of these methods can be reduced if they are not used correctly.

Discover more information about recommending diaphragms and caps to your patients in our article: Understanding The Contraceptive Cap: The Advantages and Disadvantages

Are diaphragms and caps suitable for most women?

It may be the case that most female patients you see will be able to comfortably use either a diaphragm or a cap. However, some women should not use these methods, including women who:

  • Have an unusually shaped cervix.
  • Have weak vaginal muscles.
  • Have a history of urinary tract infections.
  • Are allergic to latex or spermicide.
  • Have had toxic shock syndrome.

Explaining the advantages of diaphragms and caps

It is important to let your patient know there are several advantages to using diaphragms and caps as effective barrier contraceptives. These advantages include:

  • They are a hormone-free form of contraception.
  • They are highly effective when used properly.
  • They are reversible.
  • They are easy to use once you have gotten used to using them.
  • They can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex.

Disadvantages of diaphragms and caps

There are also a few disadvantages to using diaphragms and caps that you should make your patients aware of. These include:

  • They do not protect them against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • They can be difficult to insert at first.
  • Some women find them uncomfortable.
  • They may increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

If your patient decides to try using a diaphragm or cap, you should advise her to book an appointment to have the contraception fitted by their healthcare provider. It will help to explain that diaphragms come in different sizes, so the correct size must be fitted to her anatomy to be an effective contraceptive option.

You should also advise your patients that diaphragms must be inserted correctly to ensure they work effectively and that it may not prevent pregnancy if a diaphragm is not inserted correctly.

They should also be advised to always use an effective spermicide with their diaphragm or cap to help kill sperm and prevent it from reaching and fertilising an egg.

Your female patients should also be made aware that diaphragms are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, they have advantages over other forms of contraception and are most effective when used correctly and consistently.

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