Nowadays there are plenty of contraceptive options available to those of us who want to practise safe intercourse and above all, to prevent unwanted pregnancies. We are spoiled for choice and can choose the method most appealing to us, whether it’s the pill or the diaphragm. It is easy to obtain these contraceptives in most parts of the world. Best of all, the contraceptive methods available to us are relatively safe and in most cases, not at all disgusting or scary.
However, most of our ancestors were not so lucky. People have searched for ways and methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies for centuries. Some contraceptive methods used by our ancestors were relatively normal, such as the use of the contraceptive herb Silphium that was eventually driven to extinction.
However, other methods that were used by our ancestors were rather bizarre, and in most cases, quite terrifying. Not only some of the ancient contraceptives were scary to look at or hurt the person using it, some were also extremely dangerous to one’s health. In fact, some of the ancient contraceptives used by our ancestors led to poisonings and even death! Worst of all, a lot of the ancient contraceptives that were terrifying, harmful or disgusting were not even effective!
15. Mercury Potions On An Empty Stomach
Back in seventh century C.A China, a man named Sun Ssuma wrote a book called Ch’ien chin fang, or Thousand of Gold Prescriptions in English. In it, he included various methods and potions for early birth control or “menstrual regulators”.
One such contraceptive potion required a woman to mix oil with quicksilver (mercury). The potion was then to be drunk by the woman on an empty stomach. The author of the book, Sun Ssuma, claimed that the potion would prevent pregnancy but would not harm the individual ingesting the potion. Clearly, he was not a very good scientist or doctor and god only knows how many gullible Chinese women died drinking this poisonous potion.
14. Disinfectant Lysol When Used As A Contraceptive Caused Poisonings And Death
Back in the day, Lysol brand disinfectant was not only targeted as a useful product for cleaning your home, but also as a product for “feminine hygiene”. The brand employed women to pose for ads which were accompanied with statements such as “I use Lysol always for douching”. But at the time, Lysol contained a phenol compound which, if used for douching, was likely to cause inflammation, burning and in extreme cases, death.
However historians are now saying that Lysol wasn’t really supposed to be used for douching and keeping your body clean. Rather, the term “feminine hygiene” referred to birth control. So why didn’t the advertisers just say so? Well, because birth control for married couples was illegal in the U.S. until 1965 and for single people until 1972. Lysol poisoned hundreds of women and even caused a number of deaths. Worst of all, Lysol wasn’t even an effective contraceptive.
13. Weasel Testicles Around A Woman’s Neck
During the Middle Ages, many Europeans believed that weasel testicles were an excellent birth control. Thankfully, weasel testicles were not to be eaten or stuck in your private parts. Instead, they were supposed to be hung around a woman’s neck, like an amulet of some sort, during intercourse. Alternatively, a woman could also wear weasel testicles around her thighs for an equally effective contraception method.
If you were not a big fan of weasels and their testicles, you could always make yourself a contraceptive charm from donkey poop, mule’s uterus or a specific bone from a black cat. And if the latter charm proved to be ineffective it was because the cat you chose to take the bone from was not black enough!
12. Lemons Up In There – A Method Allegedly Used By Casanova
Our ancestors believed that the citric acid of lemons was an extremely effective form of birth control. As a result, many women soaked sponges in citric acid and then shoved the sponges into their vaginas. The ancient Jewish communities supposedly loved this method of birth control. But it wasn’t just the citric acid that was important – the sponge had a role to play too. It was said that the sponge acted as a physical barrier between the sperm and the cervix.
In fact, it is believed that the legendary lover Casanova also used lemons in his sexual escapades – he would insert lemon rinds into his lovers’ private parts. Later, it was recommended that women use lemon juice douches after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, but this method is said to have been less effective.
11. Paste Of Crocodile Poop And Honey
In ancient Egypt, women often used a disgusting paste as a contraceptive. The paste was made from crocodile poop and honey and was believed to be work like a charm. While it sounds pretty gross, the crocodile poop paste is indeed said to have been rather effective. You see, crocodile’s poop has acidic properties and thus would have made for quite an effective contraceptive.
So if the crocodile poop was so effective, why even add honey? Well, that remains a mystery. Perhaps honey was used to make the paste less gross or smelly. Although we don’t see how that would have worked. Besides, with such a disgusting paste in your private parts, would you even want to engage in intercourse? The women’s partners must have been grossed out.
10. Lead-Infused Water
Lead is a chemical element that is rather dangerous. It has caused memory loss, physical weakness, depression, kidney and heart disease and other forms of illness. Exposure to lead is clearly not good for you. However, before this was known, women all over the world were using lead as a form of birth control.
In ancient China and ancient Greece, women often drank lead-infused water so as to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And supposedly, during World War I some women went for factory jobs that involved working with lead-based materials so that they could get access to free lead, and in turn, free contraceptive. And while lead does indeed reduce fertility, it also greatly reduces your health too.
9. The Gamic Appliance AKA The Urethra Plug
A lot of contraceptives are used by women. But what about men? Well, they too had interesting contraceptives available. For example, those men that did not want to use a condom could have used the gamic appliance instead. The popularity of the gamic appliance was short-lived: it was popular only between 1965 and 1974.
The gamic appliance consisted of a rubber plug with a sheath fitted over the tip. It was basically a urethra plug. The semen that the man ejaculated was supposed to get caught in the sheath. Unfortunately, in reality that rarely worked because the gamic appliance often slipped off and ended up in the woman’s vagina.
8. Bloodletting – Because They Thought Semen Was Blood That Had Turned White From The Heat
Believe it or not, but once upon a time it was believed that bloodletting could be used as a contraceptive. A few hundred years ago it was generally thought that semen was nothing more than blood that had turned white from the heat of the body.
In 1610 the French physician Jacques Ferrand wrote a very famous treatise called A Treatise on Lovesickness in which he recommended bloodletting to be used as a form of contraception. Ferrand added that if normal bloodletting was not effective in reducing a man’s sexual appetite, then the man must be bled extensively, until he “is ready to fall downe for faintnesse, and losse of blood.” Sounds legit.
7. Nettle Pessaries And Camel’s Spit
During the Elizabethan Era, nettle-leaf pessaries were an extremely popular form of contraceptive. It might sound quite scary to us, but to Elizabethan women using nettle pessaries was an everyday occurrence. It might have stung their private parts, but a little bit of stinging is better than an unwanted pregnancy, right?
Besides, nettle-leaf pessaries were not as bad as drinking camel spit. While Elizabethan women were busy collecting nettles, women in Africa were told to collect and then consume the saliva from a camel’s mouth. Somehow, it was believed that camels’ saliva had magical properties that prevented unwanted pregnancies. Of course, this sounds completely bizarre and gross to us now, but once again, women were prepared to try anything that might work as a contraceptive.
6. Onion Juice On Your Johnson
Another contraceptive method used by ancient men was onion juice. The method was popular in ancient Egypt. All the man had to do was apply onion juice to the tip of his penis before having intercourse. The onion juice was supposed to somehow prevent pregnancy.
And perhaps the method was indeed effective. While in reality the onion juice might not have had any properties that could prevent pregnancy, what woman would have allowed a man to stick his onion covered private parts inside her? Onion juice inside a vagina would have stung a lot so perhaps this contraceptive method was effective in that no intercourse followed.
5. Bronze Pessaries That Were Extremely Painful
Between 200 BCE and 400 CE, bronze pessaries were used as a contraceptive. Nowadays, pessaries are used when treating a uterus prolapse or for supporting the pelvic floor. And sometimes pessaries were used for the same purpose in the past too.
However, other times pessaries, such as the bronze pessary depicted in the photograph above, were used for blocking the cervix. The hole you can see in the middle of the pessary was necessary – it allowed a rod to be put through it and into the cervix to hold the pessary in place. Of course, as you can imagine, while the bronze pessary might have been an effective form of birth control it is unlikely that anyone would have wanted to have intercourse when the pessary was inserted into the cervix since it would have hurt too much.
4. Wishbone Stem Used For Stopping A Fertilized Embryo From Implanting And Growing
This scary looking device is called a Wishbone Stem and was popular during the 19th century. This gold pessary is an intra-cervical device. The flat end of the terrifying device was placed against the vaginal wall of the woman. The stem of the device was then jutted out into the uterus through the cervix.
The Wishbone Stem did not actually act as a device to prevent conception. Rather, it stopped a fertilized embryo from implanting and growing in the woman’s uterus. Once again, with a contraceptive tool so scary, it is not likely that anyone even felt like having intercourse to begin with.
3. Soluble Spermicides Caused Skin Irritation And Pain
Soluble spermicides were popular during the early 20th century. Soluble spermicides were contraceptive pessaries that were rather harsh and were considered dangerous even at the time when they were popular. Very often soluble spermicides led to skin irritation and pain. However, they were quite effective and so the pain and irritation were often overlooked by those who wanted to have intercourse that would not lead to an unwanted pregnancy.
Soluble spermicides were offered by the Mother’s Clinic and were recommended by various professional doctors, such as the doctor Marie Stopes, who had set up her own birth control clinics in North London in the early 20th century. The only good thing about soluble spermicides was that they did not look scary.
2. Opium Diaphragms Made Women Too High To Have Intercourse
Ancient Sumatran women believed that opium could be used as a contraceptive. The pod of the opium plant was thought to have special properties that could prevent pregnancies and thus this method was extremely popular. The method was also relatively straight forward, was not that gross and did not look that scary compared to other ancient methods.
Opium diaphragms were said to be effective but some question this and wonder – perhaps Ancient Sumatran women were so high on opium themselves that they were not even engaging in intercourse at all. Of course, that makes sense – when you’re high you hallucinate all sorts of things so it is likely that ancient Sumatran women hallucinated having intercourse.
1. Animal Intestines Used For Making The First Condoms
If you think that condoms are a modern invention, think again! In actual fact, condoms have been around for ages. Except they were not always so modern looking. Back in the day, condoms were made from animal intestines and looked rather gross.
In fact, one of the oldest condoms in the world was made from pig intestine and even had a user manual that went with it, supposedly that explained how to put it on and what to do afterwards. The manual suggested soaking the pig intestine condom in warm milk before using it. Because you know, just using the gross pig intestine condom was not bad enough and might not put you off intercourse already.
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