Contraceptives Through the Ages

It has not always been a world of birth control pills and condoms. In fact, there was a time when wooden blocks, elephant dung, and mercury prevailed. Take ancient China for instance: ladies who were feeling a little randy would take a nice drink of fresh mercury to avoid getting pregnant (do not try this at home). The Middle Ages came up with the brilliant idea of having women insert wooden blocks before intercourse, but then realized that hey, that’s kind of torture.

However, it wasn’t all failed attempts. The contraceptives used through the ages became a pathway to the ideas behind most of the contraceptives today — minus that little 1950s mishap of douching with Coca-Cola…

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    Contraception Through the Ages_final .jpg

    Click through to see them all...

  • Honey and Crocodile Poop 2 of 26
    076

    The Ancient Egyptians were known to make diaphragms out of honey and crocodile feces to block sperm.
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Citric Acid 3 of 26
    018

    Women used to soak sponges in citric acid and then insert it for the spermicidal properties. They could also use the peel as an all organic diaphragm. Point being, think twice before you throw out those lemons after making lemonade. 
    Find out more at List Verse.

  • Weasel Testicles 4 of 26
    067

    It was truly the Dark Ages when a doctor advised women to strap on weasel testicles to themselves before intercourse as a form of contraceptive. 
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Queen Anne’s Lace 5 of 26
    029

    Taking Queen Anne's Lace seeds have been known to be used as a contraceptive because it blocks progesterone synthesis. Even Hippocrates wrote about it!
    Find out more at List Verse.

  • Cotton 6 of 26
    038

    Cotton soaked in a paste of dates, acacia tree bark, and honey and then inserted was known to be a form of birth control way back in 1550 BCE.
    Find out more at Listverse.

  • Froth From a Camel’s Mouth 7 of 26
    1110

    In ancient Africa it was believed that a woman could drink the foam from a camel's mouth as a form of birth control.
    Photo via Getaway.

  • Papaya 8 of 26
    048

    A papaya a day can keep the baby away. It has been said that if a man eats papaya seeds every day his sperm count can sink to zero and then return after he stops taking them. Bring on the papaya!
    Find out more at Listverse.

  • Tortoiseshell Condoms 9 of 26
    14

    Kabutogata were "condoms" that were often made of tortoiseshell in Japan during the 19th century. I wonder if they came in extra thin too?
    Photo via Tribes.

  • Mercury 10 of 26
    056

    Women in ancient China were told to drink hot mercury to prevent pregnancy. Weird that it the trend didn't stick around.
    Find out more at Listverse.

  • Animal Intestines 11 of 26
    086

    Let's call it the old school condom. Don't forget to soak it in warm milk beforehand.
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Lead-Filled Water 12 of 26
    096

    In ancient Greece women would drink the blacksmith's water that he would use to cool down his tools as a way to prevent pregnancy. Sadly, it brought about a whole lot of other issues for her too.
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Coca-Cola 13 of 26
    107

    America's heyday...A Coca-Cola douche was practiced not too far back as a way of preventing pregnancy. In fact they would practice the ol' "shake and shoot" method to get it up there.
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Honey, Ghee, and Elephant Dung 14 of 26
    127

    In India during the first century, women would mix these ingredients together and insert it to work as a type of diaphragm .
    Photo via The Guardian.

  • Asparagus Stalk 15 of 26
    136

    The Greek physician Discorides, suggested that a woman wear an asparagus stalk around her neck to avoid getting pregnant.
    Photo via Tiny Hands.

  • Rubber 16 of 26
    157

    Even Goodyear took a stab at the condom market and created rubber condoms.
    Photo via El Otono.

  • Bloodletting 17 of 26
    167

    If your husband was getting too frisky you could do bloodletting until he was just about to pass out. This idea came about when they believed semen was a white form of blood, so getting rid of a bit of blood here and there would decrease the libido.
    Photo via Cracked.

  • Silphium 18 of 26
    174

    The now extinct plant, Silphium, was used thousands of years ago as a form of birth control pill, and we wonder why it's extinct.
    Photo via CNG Coins.

  • Wood Pessary 19 of 26
    187

    What was later deemed a type of "torture" was a wooden pessary women would insert into themselves during the Middle Ages to avoid getting pregnant. I think that we can agree, things got real dark during the Middle Ages.
    Find out more at Only Hangers.

  • Onion 20 of 26
    197

    What is a little sting, right? Men would rub the juice of onions onto them as a form of spermicide. 
    Photo via Speedy Remedies.

  • Opium 21 of 26
    207

    Ancient Sumatran women would insert the cap of the opium plant as a type of diaphragm. I bet they were having some crazy coitus back then. 
    Photo via Cracked.

  • Gold and Silver 22 of 26
    217

    Women would insert little gold and silver types of thimbles inside themselves to hopefully catch or block the sperm.
    Find out more at Cracked.

  • Candy Wrappers 23 of 26
    228

    In only the 1990s teenagers had started to come up with the brilliant idea of using their candy wrappers for condoms in Australia. Oh, those crazy kids.
    Photo via Parent Dish.

  • Sneezing 24 of 26
    238

    Yup, in Ancient Greece it was believed that a woman could expel the "seed" by holding her breath during intercourse, followed by sitting with her knees bent and sneezing.
    Photo via Did You Know.

  • Circling Wolf Urine 25 of 26
    247

    Way back in the Middle Ages it was also believed that you could avoid pregnancy by walking in a circle three times around the place where a pregnant wolf had just urinated.
    Photo via Article.

  • Beaver Testicles and Alcohol 26 of 26
    259

    Enjoy a martini or a delicious mixture of beaver testicles soaked in alcohol to keep the babies away.
    Find out more at Cracked.

Jaime Morrison Curtis is author of the bestselling book Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter (A Life List for Every Woman), follow up fill-in journal My Prudent Advice, and founding co-editor at Pretty Prudent, the premier design and lifestyle blog providing inspiration and instruction to help anyone create beautiful things, food, and experiences for their friends and family.

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