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From Elephant Dung to Drinking Froth From a Camels Mouth: The Frightening History of Birth Control Methods

I have an IUD set to “expire” this October. I can hardly believe it’s been almost five years since I debated the pros and cons of Mirena at my 6 week postpartum appointment.

For five years I haven’t given birth control a second thought. As my “baby” begins Kindergarten and I turn 36-years-old next week, I realize I need to make a decision regarding birth control pretty damn soon; stupid aging eggs.

The decision to jump back on the IUD bandwagon would be an easy one. I’d make an appointment, groom my nether regions, put my feet in stirrups, wince, pop a few ibuprofen and be done for another five years. Birth control is all too easy and for that I’m all too grateful.

How lucky we are to live in the age of modern birth control. Women for centuries and even decades before us haven’t had the safe options and ease of accessibility to birth control that we have. Let’s take a look at how far birth control methods have come – after the jump!

Let’s start with the pessary, or in layman’s terms, a thing inserted into the vagina that’s held in place by pelvic floor muscles.

The following pessaries were once thought to prevent pregnancy:

• Ancient Egyptians used two pessary methods: one being dried crocodile dung, while the other included a mixture of acacia gum, dates, an unidentified plant, fiber, and honey

• Ancient Greece used cat testicle pessaries

• Medieval Europeans tried lemon-soaked sponges

• Persian women in the 11th century inserted tar or elephant dung into their vaginas post intercourse

Moving on to condom-ish type contraptions and other stuffs applied to male genitalia as a form of birth control:

• Ancient Egyptians applied onion juice to their penes (that’s plural for penis, who knew?) prior to intercourse

• From the 12th to 14th centuries, Japan used condoms made from tortoise shell or horn

• Imperial Rome used condoms made from goat bladder

Ladies, let’s just take a moment and console our collective vaginas. There, there little glitters; there, there. And to think today we spend time worrying about things like pH balance…

This brings us to what ladies should eat, drink, douche with, and wear to prevent unwanted pregnancy:

• Medieval European women were told to drink sheep urine or rabbit blood

• Elizabethan England recommended a numbing genital bath of cold water or a mixture of ginger and vinegar

• Coca-Cola was once thought to be a most excellent spermicide by Americans in the 1950s and 60s, so why not douche with it? And Coke douche American women did. My vagina has no words.

• Medieval Europeans thought women should wear weasel testicles on their thighs or the amputated foot of a live weasel around their necks

• In the middle ages amulets made with hare anus were worn

• Ancient Africa thought women who drank the froth from a camel’s mouth would protect themselves from pregnancy

For more terrifying and hideous birth control methods used throughout the ages, check out The AWL and Babble’s Being Pregnant.

OK, they’re all scary. Which birth control method freaked you out the most?

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