Not worse than a frog, but much simpler “: 20 fascinating facts about contraception 

By | May 9, 2021

MODERN CONTRACEPTIONS ARE NOT PERFECT: hormonal drugs are associated with the risk of depression, condoms can break and are incompatible with some lubricants, latex wipes have to be clumsily gripped by hands. And where, after all, is the male hormonal contraception, over which scientists have been fighting for many years? However, all the shortcomings of modern means seem insignificant trifles in comparison with the terrifying methods that existed a thousand, one hundred and even fifty years ago. Here we have collected twenty facts from the history of contraception from ancient times to the present day, which will surely surprise (or scare) you.

Male condoms were made from fish bladders and sheep intestines

Before the invention of rubber vulcanization in 1834, male condoms were mainly made from natural materials: flax and silk, fish bladders and sheep intestines. The appendix of a three-month-old lamb was considered the best material for. Of course, contraceptives so difficult to manufacture were not available to everyone – however, wealthy people have used different variations of barrier contraception since ancient times. Casanova in the 17th century scolded the male condoms made of flax (“not the feeling”), but still resorted to them in the hope of protecting against syphilis and other STDs. The oldest surviving male condoms were found at Dudley Castle in England: they are made from sheep intestines and date back to 1642. However, their counterparts can still be purchased today: Trojan NaturaLamb Condoms are made from lamb skin membrane and promise to protect against unwanted pregnancies (but not against STDs).

Sterilization can be reversible

Sterilization is one of the surest ways to prevent pregnancy once and for all. However, some modern methods of sterilizing both men and women are reversible . If, during sterilization of women, the fallopian tubes do not intersect (are cut), but, as it were, are pinched with special clothespins, theoretically it is possible to perform an operation to restore fertility by removing them – however, a positive result is not guaranteed. But with vasectomy, everything is easier: modern methods allow you to block the vas deferens – and then remove the obstacle and return everything as it was. For a couple of years now, they have been talking about the imminent arrival of an innovative male contraceptive on the market, which mimics the effect of vasectomy without damaging the vas deferens: a special gel is injected into them, which can be dissolved with another substance.

In Germany, birth control was popularized by a pilot and a stunt woman 

One of the first sex educators in Europe was Beata Uze, a woman who became a professional pilot in the 1930s, competed for Germany in artistic piloting championships and worked as a stunt performer in films. After World War II, former Luftwaffe members were banned from flying and Uze embarked on an entrepreneurial career with Text X, a multi-reprint brochure on pregnancy prevention, sex life and hygiene, and began selling male condoms by mail order. In 1962, Beata Uze opened the Marriage Hygiene Specialty Store, the world’s first sex shop, and in 1996 founded the Erotic Museum in Berlin.

The calendar method of contraception only appeared in the 1920s – and it was developed by men

The calendar method, in which it is necessary to calculate the “dangerous” and “safe” days, is considered the most unreliable method of contraception – but it helps a lot for couples who are planning to conceive. The method was developed in the 1920s by the Japanese gynecologist Kyusaku Ogino, and later improved by the Austrian Hermann Knaus. Since the 1930s, pharmacies have begun selling calendars that allow you to calculate favorable days for conception (today this can be done even easier – using an ovulation test).

Before the invention of contraception, women became pregnant 15 times in their lives

Many of our contemporaries doubt the safety of hormonal or intrauterine contraception – after all, this is “unnatural”. It is important to remember that birth control is fundamentally against nature: it is ” natural ” for a woman to become pregnant an average of fifteen times during her life (from fifteen to fifty years). Of these fifteen pregnancies, an average of ten will end in childbirth, and only seven out of ten babies born will survive. If this really happened, the planet would be catastrophically overpopulated (and there would be no question of equality).

Instead of a pregnancy test, they used to use frogs.

Immunological and hormonal methods for diagnosing pregnancy appeared only in the 1960s – before that, Western medicine offered women a test … on a living frog . The female frog was injected with a dose of urine from a potentially pregnant woman: if the concentration of the hCG hormone was increased in the urine, the animal reacted to this and laid eggs for 18 hours. Smooth clawed frogs from South Africa were used for the tests – only high prices for capture and transportation saved them from complete extermination in the name of birth control. Before frogs, tests were carried out on mice, rabbits and rats, but it was not as cheap and convenient as with amphibians: to see the test results, a mouse or rabbit had to be killed and opened, and frogs were successfully reused. The first alternative pregnancy tests were advertised as “As good as a frog, but much easier!”

In ancient Egypt, they protected themselves with crocodile droppings 

The ancient Egyptians were not yet very well versed in the human reproductive system, but they came up with several amazing methods of contraception: for example, the Kahuna papyrus , which dates back to 1850 BC. e., suggests putting crocodile excrement into the vagina, as well as using infusions of various herbs and fumigations (hello, Gwyneth Paltrow ) to treat gynecological problems. Around the same time, sacred elephant droppings were used for contraception in India. Both in Egypt and in India, the excrement of noble animals was proposed to be mixed with honey – as a binding element and in the hope of its antibacterial properties.

Contraceptive pills interfere with fish life

Scientists are still studying how hormonal drugs affect the body and psyche of women – let alone the environment. A couple of years ago, it was discovered that synthetic estrogen, which gets into rivers and oceans in the urine of women taking birth control, affects the reproductive behavior of fish, which are much more susceptible to estrogen than humans. Swedish researcher Lina Nikoleris believes that this threatens fish populations and entire ecosystems.

Some ancient contraceptives were deadly

In ancient China, women swallowed mercury and lead to avoid getting pregnant – and didn’t actually get pregnant, but the side effects of such contraception were weakness, tremors, visual impairment, brain damage, liver failure, and excruciating death. Unfortunately, substances hazardous to health have been used for contraception for a very long time: until the 1970s, when abortion was legalized in most Western countries, women drank vinegar, paint and other toxic substances to provoke a miscarriage.

Condoms cannot be stored in your pocket 

Doctors warn that latex condoms should not be carried in a trouser pocket: friction occurs there, which, in combination with body heat, can destroy the material. In the wallet, even if you do not carry it close to your body, there are small solid objects that can damage the packaging. So if you have been carrying a condom in your jeans pocket for a long time, it is better to get rid of it right now (check the expiration date at the same time).

The most effective contraceptive is the intrauterine system 

Scientists continue to develop innovative methods of contraception, but so far the hormonal intrauterine system remains the most effective for preventing pregnancy. Its Pearl index is 0.1–0.5, which means that only 1–5 women out of 1000 will become pregnant within a year of using it. The system can be installed for several years – all this time it will protect against unwanted pregnancy, and a few days after removal, conception is already possible.

In the 1950s, women washed their vaginas with Coca-Cola after sex.

Douching or vaginal douches have long been considered a reliable means of contraception – special devices were sold in pharmacies that allowed you to rinse the vagina with water or a solution with citric or lactic acid. Perhaps the most desperate and bizarre popular method of postcoital contraception is Coca-Cola douching, which was practiced by American women in the 1950s and 1960s: it was enough to take a bottle, shake it properly and direct the stream inward. Today we know that sperm cells end up in the uterine cavity very quickly and no amount of washing will help here – but it is quite possible to get a violation of the microflora or even a burn of the mucous membrane.

Male condoms were reusable until recently

Cheap disposable male condoms appeared only in the 20th century, and before that, every sexually active gentleman had his own reusable condom and a special device on which it could be dried after washing. Covers made from animal tissue or intestines did not have elasticity – so they had to be secured with touching strings at the base of the penis. Female condoms – diaphragms that fit over the cervix – could also be reused. Reusable condoms and penis sleeves are still available today – but these are the exception rather than the rule.

TIME cover dedicated to contraceptive pills

In 1960, the first birth control pills appeared on the American market – and over the next few years, they completely revolutionized the idea of ​​female sexuality and public morality, becoming a symbol of the sexual revolution. In 1967, the cover of Time magazine featured an image of the mirror of Venus made from the contraceptive pill “The Pill” – “The same pill.” In the same decade, contraceptive pills appeared in Europe, and today they are taken by about 100 million women around the world.

At the beginning of the 20th century, bidets were considered a symbol of vice

Bidets appeared in France at the beginning of the 17th century, they were used for daily hygiene (only kings could afford to take a bath every day). But with the proliferation of plumbing bathrooms, bidets acquired a new function: a “fountain” appeared in them – a vertical stream that was used to flush out the semen from the vagina. At the beginning of the 20th century, bidets were associated exclusively with contraception and were considered not the most decent accessory: in 1900, bidets were installed in the rooms at the Ritz Hotel in New York , but they had to be dismantled almost immediately due to public outrage.

In the 17th century, women covered their cervix with squeezed lemon

By the middle of the 17th century, people already guessed that the acidic environment prevented sperm from doing their job – and practiced methods of protection based on the use of acetic or citric acid. For example, women were advised to squeeze half a lemon, shove it into the vagina, and put it on the cervix like a cap: the cap was supposed to prevent sperm from getting inside, and the acid would work like a spermicide. The same principle of use was for metal cervical caps – but they were more expensive and not as useful in the household as lemons.

Russia is the first country in the world to legalize abortion 

Russia was relatively liberal in contraception even before the revolution (Tsarist Russia was one of the few countries where male condoms could be openly advertised in the press), but the Bolsheviks in 1920 brought birth control to a new level by legalizing abortion. It was assumed that this way more women would be able to work for the good of the new country, and not take care of children. However, in 1936, abortion was again banned: it was necessary to urgently give birth to new soldiers.

Islam and Judaism Approve the Use of Certain Contraceptives

Interpretations differ, but many experts in Islam believe that contraception can be used, but “without eradicating the possibility of pregnancy and fitness for birth.” Moreover, religion allows termination of pregnancy for up to 120 days (abortion is condemned, but before this period is not equated to the murder of a person). However, in conservative Muslim communities, the use of contraception must be motivated by some serious reasons – medical or economic. In the Jewish Talmud, a sponge is mentioned – one of the oldest means of barrier contraception.

There is a practice of “contraceptive massage” in India

Traditional Indian medicine offers at least two original solutions to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Men tried to master vairoli mudra , a yoga technique that supposedly allows you to restrain ejaculation during orgasm and avoid conception. Women, in addition to elephant droppings and herbal infusions, were offered a special massage, which was supposed to move the uterus and prevent pregnancy.

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