History Of Contraception

Learning about the history of contraception is an interesting journey. The politics regarding human sexuality reflecting attitudes about gender roles, imprinted in  the evolution of the history of contraception.  Methods of contraception over decades have found to be in use today, including those thought of as little more than folk medicine.

Early Methods. Probably the earliest and most convenient methods in the history of contraception, though not necessarily the most effective, were based on four methods that relied on human psychology and self control.  Abstinence, avoiding relations altogether, and coitus interruptus, withdrawal from relations before ejaculation is one of the oldest methods along with the rhythm method, using calendar days of a woman’s cycle to pinpoint the ‘safe’ days. The obvious pitfalls were the high percentage in human error in any of the four.  

Barrier Methods. Other forms of contracetion, called barrier methods include spermicides, condoms, diaphragms and IUDs. These were developed as early as the 4th century. Aristotle offered the concept of homemade spermicide and his suggestion of bathing or "anointing" a woman’s womb with olive or cedar oils and also using frankincense is a part of the history of contraception.

Early Condoms. Early condoms of the 16th century were made of animal intestines and softened with lye. IUDs can be traced back to earlier than the 18th century.   

Part of the history of contraception involved the politics and attitudes toward women.  The chastity belt was designed to not only to keep a woman safe from pregnancy but was also to keep her chaste and was used with a lock and key. The diaphragm, a rubber circle fitting over a woman’s cervix was first developed in the 1800's by a British doctor, and introduced to the United States in the 1917 by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

The history of contraception has evolved to more sophisticated methods thanks to advanced technology. Unlike the chastity belts forced upon women in the 1800's, the feminist movement and advancement of women's rights factor significantly in the development,evolution  and use of contraception. The early history of contraception has shown that while some contraceptives have been outdated, many like the condoms are still in use today, as well as the diaphragm replacing its outdated and unorthodox model of a lemon half to prevent pregnancy in ancient times.

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