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Unwanted pregnancies may be less common since the birth control pill came into popular use, but contraceptives are nothing new. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Jews all had their own ways of preventing pregnancy. What are the most interesting ancient contraceptive methods? Let's take a look!

Native Americans

You may know blue cohosh as something used to induce labor by alternative midwives. This herb was first used as a birth control method by Native Americans. Blue Cohosh makes the uterus contract because it acts like oxytocin, so it was also used to terminate pregnancies.


The Romans used all kinds of contraceptive and abortive methods. Pennyroyal is a herb that induces menstruation and can cause abortion the Romans used it as a "morning after pill" or an abortive herb. Romans also made condoms out of goat bladders, and practiced coitus interruptus.


There is less evidence that the ancient Greeks actively used contraceptive methods, though they certainly used the withdrawal method as well as anal intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Hippocrates mentions the herb Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot for its menstruation-inducing properties.


The ancient Egyptian medical document Ebers Papyrus mentions soaking acacia bark, ground dates, and honey in a cotton "pad" and inserting it vaginally. Apparently, this potent mixture served as a spermicide, as well as a pessary the cotton physically prevented sperm from passing through the cervix.

South American tribes

South American tribes used unripe papaya, both to prevent the fertilization of an egg and to abort. Apparently, papaya seeds could also be used by men as a male contraceptive. Once the papaya becomes ripe, it loses its contraceptive properties.


The Talmud, the oral Torah, mentions using some piece of sponge or material to prevent sperm from entering the uterus in certain circumstances. Jewish law doesn't look at contraceptives with a lot of love, but permits it in some cases. Apparently, adding lemon to the mentioned sponge increases its effectiveness.

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