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Contraceptives: A Brief (and goofy) History

Contraceptives: A Brief (and goofy) History

For centuries on end, we as a human race have always looked for methods that prevent pregnancy, regardless of gender.

It still holds that abstinence is the best way to not get pregnant..ofcourse.

But where’s the fun in that? Sex is fun and experimental for most people. Often a way to further connect to our lover, or simply just a need we prefer to fulfil.

Thereby, here’s a brief history of contraceptives and aren’t we thankful for their existence now!

Ancient History:

Around 1850 BCE, Ancient Egyptian women were using crocodile dung, smearing it into their cervix. This isn’t the first time dung was in use throughout history as a form of contraceptive.  Other forms of dung included elephants as well as mice, usually smeared around the womb and/ or the cervix.

Another method was to wipe the vagina clean after intercourse, of course, we now know that that doesn’t stop pregnancies but in those times it held plausible logic.

It wouldn’t be history if there weren’t terrible superstitious methods to not get pregnant. A few of them include women (or individuals with vaginas) holding their breath while the male (or individuals with penis’) ejaculated. Another was jumping backwards seven times after sex. And likewise, these didn’t work, ever.

A newer herbal method was created; honey, pepper, alum, or lactic acid as pessaries and barriers.

The most famous of these being the ancient Greek, Silphium. It was a certain type of fennel. The plant was grown in a very specific strip of land on the shores of Cyrencia, which is now alongside modern Libya.

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Silphium: used to prevent pregnancies and now extinct cause Greeks

Silphium was used for cooking as well as medicine, and became such prominent part of the economy that by the 1st century BCE it was worth “more than its weight in silver.” Many Greek, Roman, and Cyrenean coins featured an image of the plant.

However, due to overusage and underproduction, the plant became extinct!

The Renaissance and Early Growth for Contraceptives:

As Christianity took to power and rose across countries, so did the deaths of women who earned increasing knowledge in herbal methods to stop pregnancies. They were accused of witchcraft and burned alive. While women never stopped using plant-based birth control, knowledge and documentation of these techniques declined sharply.

This followed for a long time, with penis friendly contraceptives emerging stronger than ever – the condom. Condoms were made out of animal intestines, oiled paper, animal horn, or tortoiseshell.

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Skin based condoms: oh no no

The downside to using such condom was that they would frequently move during sex, sometimes lodging inside the woman. Additionally, one could imagine that placing a tortoiseshell cap on one’s penis wouldn’t be the most comfortable or give the best sensations.

During the 16th century, as a terrible syphilis epidemic raged throughout Europe, physician Gabriele Falloppio invented and popularized the modern condom. This not only prevented pregnancy but also protect users from contracting or spreading sexually transmitted infections.

The Best Era Ever – Now:

Currently, birth control is ever fancy with more than 10 ways to effectively and safely, control pregnancies. These include modern latex condoms, birth control implants, IUD’s, vaginal rings, vasectomies, and much more.

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The current era has the most efficient and safest contraceptives.

While you’re here, also read: This Self Lubricating Condom is Changing The Sex Game

Amongst the many types, however, the most accepted and used has been the birth control pill. Even with its hormonal side effects, over 1 billion women use it worldwide.

Research on this pill started well into the 1950s, but due to the Comstock law in America, the information was forbidden from being widespread.

In his book, The Birth Of The Pill, Jonathan Eig describes how four people — “the founder of the birth control movement, a controversial scientist, a Catholic obstetrician and a wealthy feminist” — came together to deceive the government and the American people in order to create the earliest prototype of the birth control pill millions of women use today. Those four people were Margaret Sanger, Gregory Pincus, John Rock, and Katharine McCormick, respectively, and without any one of them, this project could not have been completed.

The Birth Pill:

Birth control pills (BCPs) contain man-made forms of 2 hormones called estrogen and progestin. These are hormones made naturally in a woman’s ovaries. BCPs can contain both of these hormones, or have progestin only. Both hormones prevent a woman’s ovary from releasing an egg during her menstrual cycle (called ovulation). They do this by changing the levels of the natural hormones the body makes.

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The Birth Control Pill: vagina’s best friend!

Birth Control Pills may cause many side effects. These include:

  • Changes in menstrual cycles, no menstrual cycles, extra bleeding
  • Nausea, mood changes, worsening of migraines (mostly due to estrogens)
  • Breast tenderness and weight gain

The next big step in the evolution of contraception is long term, reversible male birth control. Currently, the two main choices for men are condoms and vasectomies–too temporary and too permanent, respectively.

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