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    Posted on Mar 21, 2017

    13 Historical Birth Control Methods That Should Stay In The Past

    Nothing says safe sex like crocodile dung and tortoise shells.

    Long before we had modern contraception methods like latex condoms, birth control pills, and IUDs, people were doing some pretty interesting things to avoid getting pregnant.

    NBC / Via

    You may even be familiar with one of the first birth control tactics: pulling out. "One of the most ancient forms of contraception was actually the withdrawal method, which was described as coitus interruptus in the Bible," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells BuzzFeed Health.

    But just like people today, our ancestors didn't want to rely solely on pulling out before ejaculation. So, they came up with other ideas to prevent pregnancy. And even though some of these ancient methods seem crazy, many were rooted in the same logic behind the contraception we use today: blocking off the cervix, killing sperm, preventing ovulation, etc.

    So, here are some of the craziest forms of birth control from the past. And remember, do not try any of these... They were left in the past for a reason.

    Seriously, we do not recommend that you use any of the outdated forms of birth control described in this article. Always consult your doctor or a trusted health care professional about effective birth control regimens.

    1. Blocking your cervix with crocodile poop.

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    Way back in 1850 BCE, Egyptian women would take crocodile dung and insert it up near the cervix before sex to block sperm from entering. They'd usually mix it with honey because it was known for its antibacterial properties and it helped the dung stick up near the cervix.

    While we aren't sure how effective this method was, the fact that it was documented well enough to survive in historical records for thousands of years suggests that it probably did an okay job — or at least it was pretty popular. That being said, shoving crocodile poop up your vagina before sex sounds to us like 50 shades of infection.

    2. Inserting honey "tampons."

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    Ancient Egyptian women were also using some of the earliest barrier methods: vaginal suppositories made out of honey. These were described around 1550 BCE in Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical texts in the world.

    Women were told to make a mixture of honey and acacia leaves, which they would smear inside the vaginal canal to act as a spermicide or make into a bundle with wool and lint (like an ancient tampon) to place up near the cervix. Unlike the dung method, at least this one probably smelled (and tasted) a lot more pleasant.

    3. Lodging a piece of stone or bronze into your vagina.

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    A pessary is essentially an object, device, or suppository inserted into the vagina to block the cervix or kill sperm. It's similar to a diaphragm or cervical cap, but back in the Roman Empire around 200 BCE, they were made out of hard things like stone and bronze (like the pessary pictured above).

    The Greek physician Dioscorides described pessaries in his legendary medical text Materia Medica and advised women to soak them in peppermint oil, which might have provided a numbing effect — because while the pessaries might have been effective, they were probably very painful for women during sex.

    4. Downing some mercury after sex.

    Marcelc / Via

    It is believed that in ancient China, prostitutes and concubines were advised to drink liquid mercury or take it in tablet form after sex to avoid getting pregnant, because it prevented ovulation. The effectiveness of mercury at preventing pregnancy is questionable, but we're guessing it didn't last very long as a popular contraceptive given the side effects of consuming metallic mercury: tremors, headache, kidney failure, death...

    5. Squatting and sneezing the sperm out.

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    The ancient Roman gynecologist Soranus thought that women should take responsibility for the withdrawal method by doing the following: holding their breath when they believed their parter was ejaculating, then getting up immediately after intercourse to squat and sneeze repeatedly, then washing out their vagina. Because, sure.

    6. Wrapping the penis in goat bladders.

    Bill_anastasiou / Getty Images / Via

    Starting around 700 BCE, the ancient Romans would use bladders from goats, sheep, and other animals to wrap around the penis during sexual intercourse. Apparently, the Romans were invested in ideas of public health and created this method to "protect women" and prevent the transmission of venereal diseases like syphilis.

    Although these goat-bladder condoms were originally intended for protection against venereal diseases, they ended up being a pretty effective contraceptive method and people used them well into the Medieval Period.

    7. Smearing cedar oil and frankincense in the vagina.

    Denira777 / Getty Images / Via

    Although it sounds more like a potpourri or an air freshener, this natural ointment mixture was a popular contraception method around the fourth century in ancient Greece. Women would smear a mixture of cedar oil, frankincense, and sometimes lead into their vaginas and around their cervix to prevent pregnancy. It was believed that the oil mixture acted as a spermicide, and it was actually recommended by Aristotle in his early medical texts.

    8. Putting little silk paper hats on penises.

    The Yorck Project / Via

    Around the 12th century, the Chinese were using something called a "glans condom," an early predecessor to the first condom that basically only covers the head (glans) of the penis.

    People in China used their expertise in silk and paper-making to form silk paper sheaths, which were then soaked in oil for lubrication and spermicidal purposes. They were placed over the top of the penis during sex to catch the sperm and prevent it from entering the uterus. "These oiled paper cones could also act as a kind of a cervical cap," Minkin says.

    9. Just straight-up putting a tortoise shell on your penis.

    R0m0 / Via

    Unlike other early condom-like methods from around the world, the method used in 13th century Japan was a little less...flexible. The Japanese prevented pregnancy using a hard sheath made out of tortoise shell that was worn on the penis to keep the sperm from entering the woman's uterus. This method definitely wins a gold star for contraception creativity, but...OUCH.

    10. Securing linen condoms onto your penis with a little ribbon.

    Lund University Historical Museum / User:MatthiasKabel / Via

    The first person to actually describe the condom in the sense we know today was Italian anatomist Gabriele Falloppio in the late 14th century, who is best known for first describing the Fallopian tubes (which are named after him).

    Falloppio came up with the idea to help prevent the spread of syphilis, which was still ravaging Europe. The condom was basically a sheath made of linen, which you would slip over the head of the penis and tie tightly around the base using a a little penis bonnet. Kind of cute, right?

    11. Douching with vinegar.

    Pat_hastings / Via

    Around the 16th century in Elizabethean England, women were advised to wash their genitals and douche using vinegar — like the same kind you clean with.

    "Women sometimes used other harsh astringents in the vagina before sex, because they believed it would kill sperm," Minkin says. Vinegar-soaked sponges were apparently a popular option for Elizabethan prostitutes.

    12. Shoving half a squeezed lemon in your vagina.

    Michellegibson / Via

    Imagine cutting a lemon in half and juicing it so the rind forms a little cap. Starting around the mid-17th century, women would insert this into their vagina before sex — the idea was that the rind would prevent sperm from entering the uterus through the cervix and the acidic juice would kill sperm, too.

    "The mechanism of the lemon cervical cap, blocking the cervix, is the same idea behind the modern rubber cervical cap invented in 1927, which is still used with spermicide as a contraception today," Minkin says.

    "Casanova was actually known for using this method with his many lovers," Minkin says. Giacomo Casanova wrote about using the partially squeezed lemon halves in his famous 18th century memoirs. Whether or not the lemon juice stings the shit out of your vag, well, that's something we might want to leave behind in history.

    13. Animal intestines.

    Yes, animal intestines might sound disgusting — especially in a sexual context — but these were actually a predecessor to the modern condom, folks. It came into use around the Renaissance in Europe to curb venereal diseases and illegitimate children in the royal families. "Before the rubber revolution in the 19th century, people used intestines from fish or sheep to wrap around the penis and catch sperm," Minkin says.

    While the idea of wrapping your peen in animal guts isn't exactly sexy, the logic behind this method is what led to the creation of the condoms we still rely on for contraception in the 21st century. Plus, people do still use lambskin condoms today as a more natural, latex-free option (although they don't protect against STIs).

    So contraception has come a long, long way.


    It's worth mentioning that many people in the US had to use alternative or outdated methods even up until the 1950s, because the use of modern contraception (like condoms, diaphragms, and pills) was a punishable crime. Actually, birth control was illegal in the US for nearly a century under the Comstock Act passed in 1873.

    "Birth control wasn't officially legal until 1965 after the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, which made it unconstitutional for the government to prohibit married couples from using birth control," Minkin says. So we've technically only had access to safe, effective birth control for about fifty years.

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