The diaphragm has finally gotten a makeover: Caya, a single-size silicone cup that flexes to fit in cervices of all shapes and sizes, is the first to blow off the dust and overhaul the design of the diaphragm since the mid-1960s. (Find out the 3 Birth Control Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor.)
The new diaphragm took 10 years to develop, with countless rounds of user testing and feedback. The final design is a direct reflection of this input process, and includes suggested features like a removal tab that makes the diaphragm easier to remove. But the main reason Caya is so great? Traditionally, if you want a diaphragm, you have to see your doctor for a fitting exam. Since most of us want to minimize the amount our feet have to be in the stirrups, Caya offers a diaphragm that is as easy to obtain as the pill: You see your doctor with both feet on the floor, she writes you a prescription, and then you get it filled.
While this design definitely improves access, there hasn’t been that much research into how well the one-size-fits-all actually works to keep you from getting pregnant, warns Taraneh Shirazian, M.D., a gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. However, Caya’s developers have conducted clinical trials that found the design to be as effective as traditional diaphragms, which is 94 percent, according to Planned Parenthood (that’s more effective than the pill but less than an IUD). (5 Ways Birth Control Can Fail.)
The diaphragm was one of the first forms of modern contraception and has always had a pretty basic design: It’s a soft latex or silicone dome with a spring molded into the rim that you insert to block your cervix like a shield, preventing any sperm from swimming past.
In the ’40s, one third of all married couples in the U.S. used a diaphragm, but after other forms of contraception were introduced in the ’60s, people opted for the more effective and less time-consuming IUDs and birth control pills. Since then, more and more women have been ditching the diaphragm. In fact, in 2010 only 3 percent of sexually active women had ever used a diaphragm, according to the National Survey of Family Growth.
“Diaphragms were traditionally cumbersome to use, required placement before sex, and maintenance in the hours after sex,” explains Shirazian.
But the diaphragm is still one of the only non-hormonal forms of birth control, so women who have had bad reactions to hormone heavy contraceptives like the pill may fare better with this protection. (Find out The Most Common Birth Control Side Effects.) Plus, since you just put it in before sex every time, it doesn’t require a long-term commitment the way a month-long pill pack or five-year IUD does.
Caya is already widely available in Europe and was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last fall. If you’re interested, talk to your doctor about it more—and feel better knowing your contraceptive option has been updated since bell bottoms and fringe were in style (the first time).