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New Diaphragm Designed to Meet User Preferences


© PATH/Mike Wang

An engaging article in the The Atlantic describes the evolution of Caya*—a new purple, one-size-fits-most diaphragm—developed through a user-centered process by the international nonprofit organization PATH and research partners in the United States and other countries. Caya is an easy-to-use and visually appealing alternative to the traditional diaphragm, intended as a contraceptive option for women who wish to avoid hormonal methods and can’t or don’t want to use an intrauterine device or condoms.


The traditional diaphragm has been available for hundreds of years, has a strong safety record, and has been used widely in many countries. But diaphragms have not been promoted in recent decades, so few women and providers today have seen or used them. Diaphragm use declined for several reasons, including the difficulty of supplying and providing the traditional diaphragm (which comes in many sizes) and a perception that diaphragms were difficult to use, and old-fashioned.


To counteract these perceptions and develop a product that meets the needs of modern women, the new design has special features that make it easy-to-use—especially for new users. The single-size design makes it easy to supply and provide, with no fitting exam required to determine which size a woman should wear. Through PATH’s iterative development process, women and their partners tested six evolutions of the Caya design and provided feedback that refined product features before deciding on the final design.


“The final result has indents on the side, for grip, and a bubble on the front that’s easy to grab when a woman takes it out,” The Atlantic article states. “The rim is contoured and made of squishy nylon instead of metal.” In comparative studies, women and their partners have preferred the Caya diaphragm over a traditional diaphragm for its ease of use and updated design.


PATH licensed its contoured diaphragm technology to Kessel medintim GmbH for manufacturing and commercialization. Kessel markets the product as the Caya™ contoured diaphragm. Caya has been approved in Europe, Canada, Australia, and most recently the United States, and is in various stages of introduction in 25 countries.


PATH has conducted health systems assessments and market research in India, South Africa, and Uganda to assess opportunities and challenges for introducing Caya into low-resource settings and to inform future market development. According to a 2012 study from the Guttmacher Institute, 24 percent of women in developing countries want to prevent pregnancy but are not using a contraceptive method because they can’t find one that meets their needs. Caya—as a non-hormonal method that is user-controlled—could help fill a gap in the method mix in low-resource settings.


How do you incorporate user perspectives and product design elements when working on new contraceptive development? Feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts.


*Caya™ contoured diaphragm is a registered trademark of Kessel medintim.

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