Let’s Talk Contraception: The One-Size Diaphragm, a New Contraceptive

SILCS diaphragmIn June of 2013, a new barrier contraceptive, the SILCS diaphragm, entered the market in Europe, and in May of this year, it became available in Canada. The new diaphragm is called the Caya contoured diaphragm, and it’s being marketed as “not your mother’s diaphragm.” This is exciting because Caya is a user-friendly, one-size diaphragm that can fit most users without the need of a pelvic exam. It is being sold through pharmacies and health care providers.


An over-the-counter, one-size-fits-most diaphragm could be available in U.S. pharmacies as early as next year.


The SILCS diaphragm was developed with the financial help of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), by CONRAD and PATH, nonprofit leaders in global contraceptive research. USAID was created in 1961 by President Kennedy, and provides financial support to improving the lives of people in developing countries, including support to find safe, effective, and acceptable contraceptives in low-resource areas. CONRAD began in 1986 as a division of the obstetrics and gynecology department of East Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, and collaborates on research to improve reproductive health around the world. PATH is a Seattle-based international nonprofit that works globally to develop and deliver health solutions that are affordable and effective, including vaccines, drugs, and medical devices.

Caya works as well as traditional diaphragms, but has been redesigned to make it easier to insert and remove. During its development, many women, their partners, and health-care providers on four continents had input on its design.

A diaphragm is discreet, and can usually be kept under the user’s control. This is great for women who only want to use protection when they need it — or if they are not able to negotiate condom use. And it contains no hormones, which some women are unable or unwilling to use. It is also made of silicone, which is more durable than latex-based diaphragms. This diaphragm is able to withstand more extreme temperatures or poorer storage conditions, which may be common in poorer areas.

Most exciting about this new diaphragm is that it may someday be used with a new microbicide gel, tenofovir, that CONRAD is developing. Tenofovir is being tested for vaginal and rectal use to prevent HIV transmission. This diaphragm, when used with tenofovir gel, could then protect against pregnancy and HIV transmission at the same time.

Right now, Caya is only available in Canada and some European countries, but the process of gaining FDA approval for marketing in the United States has begun. Americans may see it on the pharmacy shelves in 2015. Additionally, PATH is currently researching Caya’s potential to be used in developing countries, where this new contraceptive might help meet family-planning needs globally.

If you would like more information about diaphragms, other contraceptives, or prevention of HIV, make an appointment with a health-care provider at Planned Parenthood.


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