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Throughout the history men and women have tried to prevent undesired pregnancy through various contraception techniques, devices and methods. Today, there is a very wide choice of contraceptives available both for men and women, but it would be interesting to learn what our ancestors used for this purpose.

Birth control throughout the history

The most effective method of birth control, then and now, is abstinence. However, the nature of sex is such that abstinence can be very difficult, which is why people always looked for a back-up plan.

The oldest known contraceptive originates from Egypt, 1500 BC. Egyptian women used to make a barrier made of crocodile dung or honey, which, because of the stickiness, was meant to prevent the semen from entering the vagina. There is no evidence if this method was effective or not.

In other parts of the world women used a similar method. They placed different oils and resinous materials on their cervix, especially honey and olive oil. Those substances formed some sort of a barrier, which reduced the chance of conception.

Another form of contraception was a cloth soaked in vinegar, which worked by increasing the acidity and making the unfavorable environment for the sperm.

As for the male contraception, one of the more bizarre methods was the so-called sub-incision. In this method, a tiny hole was made in the urethra, at the base of the penis, so during the ejaculation the semen would leak there instead of in the vagina. Because the hole could not be repaired, if they wanted to have children, men would have to plug it with their finger during ejaculation. They also had to plug it while urinating, which can be quite frustrating.

One method was widely used throughout the history and it still is - the coitus interruptus. In this method, the man pulls out from the vagina before ejaculating. Today everyone is well aware that this method is not 100% effective. A similar method, called coitus reservatus, included squeezing the base of the penis to prevent ejaculation altogether. This method, however, can be very frustrating for the man.

Birth control today

The first modern birth control device is the male condom, developed in the 16th century. It has evolved and its shape and materials are different than 500 years ago, but the principle is the same. Condoms remain one of the most popular methods of birth control and they are also effective against sexually transmitted diseases.

Today, other ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy include birth control pills, female condoms, intrauterine devices such as diaphragm, tubal ligation, spermicides and many more.

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