This New Diaphragm Isn’t Your Mother’s Birth Control

Aug 30, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: Jenjen42/Getty Images

If you watched television in the '90s, you might have believed that everyone in possession of a vagina was using a diaphragm for birth control.

It wasn’t true — by 1995, only 1.2 percent of birth control users were opting for a diaphragm.

Although the diaphragm was super-popular for the first part of the 20th century, and one-third of American couples were using them in the 1940s, they’re now seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant, with people ditching them in favor of hormonal birth control that’s more reliable and longer lasting.

More: The old-fashioned diaphragm just got a serious upgrade

“I have written one prescription for a diaphragm in the last 10 years,” said Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, an OB-GYN in Mississippi. “They interrupt the mood and are just not sexy.”

Even if you never saw that Sex and the City episode where Samantha has to help Carrie retrieve hers, you might think of diaphragms as your mother’s birth control. An object that is antique, small, fleshy — a plastic hat residing in a pink box. Why would you choose that, a barrier method that you have to insert before sex, when you could opt for something you can take orally or insert and not have to think about? Diaphragms are definitely out, especially among folks in their 20s and 30s. Right?

Not exactly. A, 30, uses a diaphragm along with a condom. “My blood pressure got really high on the pill, and I don’t like how it changed my hormones,” she said. “I tried to get an IUD, but had a really bad experience with it not fitting in correctly. I also like that I could use the diaphragm when I needed it, but not when I didn’t.”

It was A’s mom who urged her to consider a diaphragm, but actually getting one turned out to be complicated. “I talked to my nurse practitioner, who looked at me like I had three heads and said they weren’t really used any more. I had to really push. No one seemed to want to fit me for one.”

“I absolutely loved my diaphragm and missed the hell out of it,” said Kat, who lives in Los Angeles. She doesn’t use drugs of any kind, so a diaphragm was perfect for her. However, like A, she discovered there were hurdles to obtaining one.

More: 5 Ways birth control can actually be sexy

“I gave it up because I hit a point where I could not find a pharmacist in Los Angeles that carried it. Now I’m resigned to using condoms,” said Kat.

Others reported wanting to return to diaphragms, which they’d used in college or while married, but were unable to buy the contraceptive gel that accompanies the device or opted out of use because they were looking for a method that also prevented sexually transmitted infections.

Of course, there are providers who are championing the diaphragm, like Elizabeth Trattner, a self-described “huge fan of diaphragms” and a doctor of traditional Asian medicine in Florida who has been treating women for nearly 30 years. Many of Trattner’s patients live with immune system disorders or a history of cancers that prohibit the use of hormonal birth control.

“I also am a big believer of allowing your cycle to ebb and flow the way it is supposed to be for the past thousands of years,” said Trattner.

If you’re starting to think a diaphragm might be the right birth-control method for you, good news — there’s a new option out there. It’s Caya, a one-size-fits-all diaphragm that’s contoured. In order to put in a diaphragm, you need to locate your cervix and then fold the device to insert it. The small size of Caya, as well as the inclusion of indentations so you can feel where to grab it, make both retrieval and insertion easier. Caya has been distributed in Europe and the Middle East since 2013 and in the U.S. since 2015.

More: Pass on the pill: Alternatives to birth control pills

For some, diaphragms have never been obsolete, but for others looking for a barrier method that’s hormone free, the diaphragm, especially in its new iteration, might be just the thing.

Trattner explained, “As we are exposed to more xenoestrogens in our environment, coupled with the fact that many millennials are seeking more natural ways of birth control, we will actually begin to see a trend of diaphragms and cervical caps rise again.”

By Chanel Dubofsky

Originally published on HelloFlo.