Diaphragms were always a bit of a mystery to us. We’d see them in random scenes on ’70s and ’80s sitcoms, when they’d unluckily fall out of someone’s purse, or a child would emerge from the bathroom wearing it on his head. They looked cumbersome, ugly, and straight-up weird. And once intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control became more prominent, diaphragms all but disappeared. That is, until now.
Seattle-based company PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) has developed a new, modern (and dare we say it, almost sleek) diaphragm: the Caya. It’s purple (not that hideous yellowy-brown of yore), it’s pretty small, and it’s one-size-fits-all; it has indents on the side for grip, and a bubble on the front that’s easy to grab when you take it out. The rim is contoured and made of pliable nylon instead of metal. (Imagine that these were made with metal. WOW.)
“I think when highly effective IUDs became available in the ’80s, people started looking at the diaphragm, which had been around for hundreds of years, and it seemed old fashioned and passé,” says Maggie Kilbourne-Brook, the program officer at PATH, who was in charge of developing Caya. “You go to family-planning clinics now and they’re not even on the posters anymore.”
It’s true. Who wants to fiddle around with some awkward contraption, especially down there? PATH’s goal was to make a diaphragm that was less cumbersome for the user and easier for health-care providers, who struggled with stocking different diaphragm sizes, and spending the time to fit women for them. Kilbourne-Brock has heard stories about diaphragms flying across the room as women tried to insert them, or first-timers losing their minds when trying to find their cervix.
“If you have a bad first time you’re not going to come back,” she says. “It was discouraging.”
A bonus for the much-maligned diaphragm is it is pretty much the only advanced contraception option for women that doesn’t involve messing with your hormones. All IUDs and birth-control pills alter your hormones, which (obviously) leads to many unwanted side effects. So for women who want an alternative, the Caya seems to be it. It was approved for sale by Health Canada in 2014.
In combination with a spermicide (also sold through PATH), the Caya claims to be just as effective as the ol’ condom-and-pill duo. It’s supposedly easy to insert — with several helpful how-to videos on its website — and possesses none of the archaic qualities of diaphragms past.
“This isn’t just the introduction of another diaphragm,” Kilbourne-Brook said. “It’s reintroducing a whole generation to a method they haven’t seen.”