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do diaphragms prevent STDs

By: Karen Terry

October 5, 2022

Do Diaphragms Prevent STDs? What You Need To Know

Diaphragms are among the oldest forms of contraceptives. Since their invention around 180 years ago, their popularity has declined drastically as more effective contraceptives appeared. However, diaphragms have garnered some attention in the 21st century as a female-controlled method of preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 

With people now asking, “Do diaphragms prevent STDs?” researchers are looking for answers. Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent STDs, but men are the ones that decide whether to use them. According to a 2011-2015 study, only 24% of men said they used a condom every time they had sex. However, women interviewed said condoms often broke or fell off during sex. This inconsistency is why researchers are looking for ways for women to protect themselves from STDs. 

At Rapid STD Testing, we strive to help people protect themselves from STDs by providing information on contraceptives like diaphragms. In this article, we’ll discuss what diaphragms are and their efficacy in preventing STDs. 

What Is a Diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a barrier that protects the cervix during sexual intercourse. The dome-shaped silicone device blocks the entrance to the uterus, preventing sperm from finding an egg. It is most effective when spermicide-covered. To use a diaphragm properly, you add spermicide to the device, insert it before sex, and remove it after six hours. Diaphragms are washable and reusable for up to two years. 

Even with strict adherence to diaphragm use guidelines, six out of 100 women will get pregnant when using the contraceptive. With mistakes, the rate is around 12 to 18 out of 100 women. Diaphragms rank below condoms, birth control pills, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) in preventing pregnancy. 

You can only obtain a diaphragm from your health care provider, who must measure the right size for your body and demonstrate how to use it. While using a diaphragm, you might have to contact your doctor about changes that can affect its efficacy, such as pregnancy or weight loss. 

Advantages of Diaphragm With Spermicide

  • It doesn’t affect hormones or menstrual cycle
  • You only use it when you have intercourse
  • It causes few side effects
  • It could help prevent cervical cancer and certain STIs

Diaphragms are much less popular than other birth control methods because many women find them messy and bothersome. Also, some women are allergic to spermicide. 

Side effects of using diaphragms include urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginal irritation. For more information on recognizing side effects, read about the difference between UTIs and yeast infections.

Diaphragm vs. Female Condom

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are an alternative to regular condoms for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A female condom is a lubricated pouch made of soft plastic with inner and outer rings to keep it in place. It acts as a barrier in the vagina during sexual intercourse, stopping sperm from reaching an egg and protecting against STDs.

The contraceptive can also serve as a condom for anal sex, preventing viral or bacterial infection.

Female condoms perform similarly to diaphragms for stopping pregnancy, with an effectiveness rate of 79% for general use and 95% for perfect use. Since female condoms cover the entire vagina, they are much more useful for preventing STIs than are diaphragms, which only block the cervix. 

Advantages of using a female condom include the following. They are:

  • Latex-free
  • Non-interfering with sexual pleasure
  • Protective against pregnancy and STIs
  • Usable with lubricant
  • Able to insert up to 2 hours before intercourse

Like external condoms, you can only use female condoms one time. Some women find them difficult or uncomfortable to use, and they require practice and consistency to be most effective. You can buy them in many stores available for over-the-counter purchases. 

Does a Diaphragm Help Prevent STIs?

With the limited research available, it’s difficult to determine how effectively diaphragms prevent STIs. Like other barrier methods, diaphragms block fluids from reaching the uterus. Protecting the cervix from pathogens might reduce the risk of contracting STDs like HIV, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. 

The general consensus is that diaphragms are not reliable protection against STIs. While they provide a barrier for the cervix and uterus, they don’t cover other areas of the vagina or surrounding skin. Since some STIs, like human papillomavirus (HPV), spread through skin-to-skin contact, diaphragms provide little protection.

Condoms are still the most dependable contraceptive for protecting you and your partner from STDs. To ensure that you stay healthy while sexually active, Rapid STD Testing provides easy access to same-day STD testing near your location. 

Diaphragm Effectiveness

Do diaphragms prevent STDs? One study involving female sex workers found that diaphragms provide some protection from gonorrhea and chlamydial infection but little evidence for the prevention of HIV infection. The study also observed that frequent diaphragm use could cause damage to vulvar, vaginal, or cervical tissue, leading to an increased risk of catching STDs. 

Another study supports the belief that consistent use of diaphragms can help prevent gonorrhea but also found little to assert that they can stop other STIs. The most frequent problems with diaphragm use are that women don’t use them consistently when engaging in sexual behaviors or don’t follow the instructions for proper use. 

Today, diaphragms are generally less acceptable to women looking for a way to practice safe sex. The method of inserting and removing diaphragms can be uncomfortable and messy compared to other contraceptives, leading many women to stick with options like birth control pills or IUDs. Ideas for improvements to diaphragms do exist but require more research to move forward. 

Some researchers assert that diaphragms should get more attention as a way for women to protect themselves without having to inform their sexual partners. Societal standards can leave certain women with few options for contraceptives or STD protection, but diaphragms are insertable up to two hours before sex and are undetectable during most sexual activity. 

How To Protect Yourself Against STDs

Millions of people are at risk of catching STDs in the U.S., with nearly half of new infections affecting young adults aged 15 to 24. The most common STDs include: 

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Condoms are the only contraceptive proven to reduce the risk of catching STDs, particularly external condoms used by men. The barrier protecting fluids from reaching the vagina prevents infections such as HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Female condoms are similarly effective but have little research backing them compared to external condoms. 

One of the most common STDs, HPV, can still spread through contact during sex with an infected partner. However, consistent condom use can even reduce the risk of catching HPV. 

The following are some of the ways you can keep yourself safe from STIs:

  • Practice abstinence. Abstinence from vaginal, oral, and anal sex is the only way to be 100% sure you won’t catch an STD.
  • Use condoms. Condoms are highly effective at protecting against STIs, but you must use them consistently and correctly. 
  • Be choosy about your sexual partners. One of the best ways to avoid infections is to have one mutually exclusive partner who tested negative for STDs.
  • Get the vaccine. Getting the HPV vaccine as a child or young adult can provide years of protection against HPV.
  • Test for STDs regularly. Tests, such as our 10-Panel STD test, are the only way to determine if you have an STD.

Periodic STD tests are crucial for ensuring that you stay healthy while sexually active. Many STDs, such as HIV, have no symptoms but can lead to health issues down the line, and the only way to find out is through an STD test. 

Common Symptoms of STIs

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blisters, warts, or rashes
  • Sores on the mouth, throat, anus, etc.
  • Painful urination
  • Flu-like symptoms

Rapid STD Testing: One of the Strongest Barriers Against STDs

So, do diaphragms prevent STDs? While there might be some evidence of protection, we hope we've persuaded you that diaphragms aren’t the most reliable defense against STIs.

At Rapid STD Testing, we make testing easy so you can have peace of mind. Get a rapid STD test today by visiting one of our test centers near you.


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By: Karen Terry
October 5, 2022

With a profound passion for making intricate medical information accessible to all, John possesses a unique ability to simplify complex concepts without sacrificing accuracy or depth. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of various healthcare fields, John is well-versed in the latest research and advancements. However, what truly sets him apart is his remarkable talent for distilling this wealth of knowledge into engaging, reader-friendly content.