health

"My diaphragm got stuck and made a doctor cry."

Image: iStock

It was a whirlpool romance – specifically, sex in a spa bath.

Afterwards, when I went to fish out my new diaphragm in the privacy of the hotel’s en suite, the combined suction of the silicone dome and the spa bath had rendered it stuck. I didn’t worry about it at the time – there were fluffy robes and mini bars to explore.

We’ll get to the worry.

I chose a diaphragm because with every other form of contraception I’d reached that point of no return that many of us will be familiar with. After 15 years of faithful use, the pill had triggered an almighty hormone imbalance (estrogen dominance in my case) that a quick poll of any woman I know over 30 will confirm sounds familiar. I’m talking mood swings, livid facial rashes, melasma (pigmentation patches usually found in hormonally haywire pregnant women), constant bleeding and murderous fantasies… and no amount of switching brands was remedying that.

READ MORE: Why doctors don’t want women getting The Pill without a script.

(Around the same time, incidentally, I interviewed a professor of reproductive biology who insisted, “There are no known health deficits to taking the pill. I took a pill on television the other day, to impress people that it’s totally safe”. Ha ha! Who’d like at him first, ladies? I know where he works.)

I knew that an IUD, a NuvaRing, a shot or a patch would have the same effect as the pill – i.e. messing with my body like it’s some kind of high school science experiment. So this left condoms or the seemingly archaic diaphragm – a cap that attaches to your cervix by SUCTION. Okay, that sounded foolproof.


It took me ages to find a specialist doctor who could even order and fit a diaphragm, so out of vogue are they. I eventually bought one diaphragm for $100 and was then told that there was nowhere in Australia that I could get the diaphragm’s crime-fighting sidekick, spermicide gel.

A few weeks later the two tubes of spermicide gel that I’d ordered on the internet from the US arrived – which cost another $100 or so. For a contraceptive straight out of the Dark Ages, this was really starting to add up.

For a few weeks, the diaphragm worked fine. There’d usually be a ruh-roh moment whenever I tried to pull it out, but once you hooked a fingertip beneath it you were supposed to be fine.

Until the whirlpool. The day after my special bath, I made four or five trips to the toilets at work, trying to jimmy this thing free. I was starting to look consternated and was attracting attention. At lunchtime, I went to a walk-in surgery and presented myself to the doctor.

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He had to agree, the diaphragm was clamped fast in a vacuum.

This Alien scene suddenly came to mind.

I got in the stirrups, and the doctor whipped out his forceps. Despite my use of birth control, I was apparently in store for a natural delivery.

Ten minutes later he wiped his brow and tried to disguise the look of imminent tears. “Can’t you go to hospital?” he panted.

“I’m not starting this all over,” I snapped. “Just finish it. Don’t worry about me.”

He battled on, but the look on his face said: hopeless.

“At least your day can’t get any worse,” I japed, watching the clock on the wall with curiosity. We’d hit the 15-minute mark now. You had to feel sorry for the guy.

The doctor switched from trying to get a grip on the slippery edge – “Dammit!” – to just tearing it to pieces. Eventually – after 22 minutes – the thing completely disintegrated from his weary scraping, but he’d taken half my cervix with it. A course of antibiotics was prescribed, which, of course, gave me thrush three days later.

There’s a happy ending. Recognising the shitful paths women have to pursue in the name of contraception, my boyfriend decided to get the snip – which was zero hassle for me and minimal hassle for him. Plus I get to put it as a guarantee on my résumé.

What should you do if you’re not ready for something so drastic? I’d like to know. We’re forever waiting for scientists to come up with that answer, aren’t we? I bet when they do they say it's so great they'd happily do it themselves.

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