An Interesting History Into Female Contraception

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The pill is one of the most widely used types of contraption taken worldwide. When taken correctly, it has a 99% success rate in preventing pregnancy.

However, the pill has not always been an option. Women have relied on numerous alternative techniques to prevent pregnancy for millennia. Here is a look at some unusual early contraceptive options to demonstrate how much things have changed thanks to the pill.

Botanical beverages

For thousands of years, men and women took herbal potions to prevent or terminate a pregnancy. Ancient writings include numerous herbal ingredients such as hawthorn, willow, and ivy. When sipped, they were supposed to demonstrate sterilizing effects. Before and after sex, genitals had various chemicals applied. These compounds formed a barrier-forming substance. For hard plugs or suppositories, ingredients included honey, acacia honeycomb, and crocodile dung!


Douching was a popular method of preventing pregnancy after sex during the Roman period, often applied before and after sexual intercourse. Douching involves washing the vagina with seawater, lemon juice, or vinegar. The idea was that by rinsing out the vagina, women would remove any sperm and perhaps destroy any sperm cells that remained.

Women continued this approach to avoid pregnancy into the 20th century.

Condoms and Early caps

Male condoms have been around for far longer than female versions. Linen or animal intestines were the original materials used for male condoms. Dutch doctor Aletta Jacobs created the first vulcanized rubber cap in 1883. The first rubber female condoms become available only in the early 1900s, and since 2003, the silicone FemCap has been the only UK cervical cap.

Contraceptive sponges

Leaves, lemons, and sponges have been used for vaginal barriers during intercourse for hundreds of years,. However, sponge usage has continued in the UK until today. Between 1985 and 1995, the Today Sponge — a plastic sponge that covers the cervix and includes spermicides to prevent pregnancy — was available in the United Kingdom.

Sponges were once believed to be able to ‘soak up’ sperm and prevent conception. However, effectiveness rates may be as low as 76%, suggesting that one-fourth of women still get pregnant after utilizing the sponge.

Early contraceptive drugs

Oral contraceptives have been available for more than 2,000 years. Willow shoots, deer horn scrapings from males, and even bees were considered to contain contraceptive properties if chewed. Even before the development of the Microgynon pill, other types of oral contraception were explored. Syntex SA was formed in 1945 to create steroids from diosgenin – a Mexican yam steroid.

How did the pill transform society?

The contraceptive pill, introduced to the public in the 1960s, is often credited with launching the 1960s decade, referred to as the age of free love, sexual liberation and women’s rights.

By 1967, 1.2 million women in the United States had taken the pill. The contraceptive pill is now available in 32 different forms and is used by over 100 million women worldwide, making it easier to access safe contraceptive methods. Overall, in the United Kingdom, it is one of the most popular contraceptives.

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