I say birth control, you say… Pill? IUD? Implant? Condom?
Nope, none of those… I’m talking diaphragms! Popular from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, the diaphragm is the most underappreciated and underprescribed of all the birth control methods. It is a flexible, round silicone device that creates a seal against the vaginal walls. After applying a teaspoon of spermicide it is inserted vaginally (similarly to a menstrual cup) and acts as a barrier method against sperm. It is a quick, simple, effective and safe method of preventing unwanted pregnancies.
I began my search for a drug-free method of birth control halfway through my pregnancy, and found that the resources are just not there. It took me about 6 months to discover diaphragms, find a safe spermicide (there is only ONE on the market), and track down a facility where I could get fitted. My hope is that my experience can make finding birth control a simpler task for the rest of you!
Why do I love diaphragms so much?
-Neither you or your partner will feel it. Once it’s in, you’ll never know it’s there.
-You can insert it hours or minutes before sexual activity. It’s just as quick as putting on a male condom.
-Its effectiveness is nearly the same as a male condom. With typical use, you can expect a 16% chance of pregnancy in a year. With perfect use, you can expect as low as a 2% chance of pregnancy.
-Diaphragms are reusable and each one lasts 2-10 years.
-The new health care law requires that your insurance cover 100% of the cost.
-Uninsured? It only costs $60-$80 every 2 years. Birth control pills average $20 per month, which comes to $480 every 2 years.
-Most are latex-free, so those with a latex allergy can use it safely.
-It’s drug free. This was the winner for me. Side effects of your typical birth control pill? Liver disease, breast cancer, hypertension, gallbladder disease, decreased glucose tolerance, headache, stroke, breathing irregularities, depression, moodiness, weight gain, irregular uterine bleeding, headaches, nausea, nutrient depletions. Side effects of diaphragm? Pretty much nada. But the following are some potential downsides.
-They are available by prescription only.
-Does not protect against STDs. Use a diaphragm only if you are in a committed, monogamous relationship.
-If you don’t plan ahead, you may have to pause sexual activity for a minute or two to insert.
-Some women may find the fitting and self-insertion an uncomfortable experience. You must be comfortable with your sexual organs to use this device properly.
-Similarly to tampons, if it is left in for extended periods of time it can lead to toxic shock syndrome.
-Risk of infection if the device or your hands are not clean. Always wash your hands!
-Only 16% effective with typical use.
So that 16% chance of failure is a bit scary to me. So to offset that, my husband and I chose to also employ the “pulling out method.” Used on its own, this method has a 27% failure rate per year. When combined with TYPICAL diaphragm use, your chances of getting pregnant fall to 11.7% per year. When both contraceptive methods are used PERFECTLY, however, your chances of pregnancy drop to near 0%. With proper education and practice, this combination can be near fool-proof.
*Do not use a male condom along with a diaphragm- the two can rub together and cause breakage.
Now the spermicide. I didn’t like that all the spermicides on the market contained nonoxynol-9, a surfactant that can cause vaginal lesions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like putting chemicals in ANY part of my body. So after much digging, I discovered the all-natural spermicide Contragel Green. Read more about it on their website: http://buycontragel.com/
I’m hoping that by spreading awareness of this method of contraception, more women consider it as a safe way to take control of their fertility. I believe it’s not common because it’s never mentioned as an option by doctors. It’s not brought up as an option because doctors are not trained on it or given resources on it. Doctors are not trained on it or given resources because it is not profitable for the drug companies. (Remember the $60-$80 vs the $480??) So it’s up to you to be your own advocate and ask about diaphragms. If you don’t know your choices, you don’t have a choice.
Happy diaphragming, ladies!
Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH
Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide
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