The history of contraceptives is almost as old as civilization itself. The quest largely was conducted by trial and error, with both effective and ineffective methods being passed down through the generations. The first contraceptives used were "natural methods," "the rhythm method" and substances including ginger, olive oil, pomegranate pulp, crocodile dung and gum or honey from various trees. As technology improved, more comfortable and effective IUDs, condoms and birth control pills came along.
Perhaps the oldest form of contraception were "natural methods," breast feeding children for up to three years to suppress ovulation or suppressing ejaculation or "coitus interruptus," withdrawing before ejaculation. Another early contraceptive method was "the rhythm method," or abstaining from intercourse during ovulation. However, researchers didn't figure out until 1930 exactly which days during ovulation were safe for intercourse.
This lack of definitive information drove couples to somewhat desperate measures, such as smearing ginger, tobacco juice,crocodile scat, honey or olive oil around or on the vagina before intercourse. Oral contraceptives included drinks containing oils, grains, fruits, grains, arsenic, mercury, urine or strychnine. French prostitutes used syringes to insert douches since 1600 although this was ineffective unless the douche was acidic. From the 1930s to 1960s, the disinfectant Lysol was a popular contraceptive among American women although its claims later were debunked.
More effective methods were barriers such as soft wool soaked in vinegar or lemon juice, oiled paper, beeswax or a half lemon inserted in the vagina. Next came diaphragms and then IUDs (intrauterine device).
As far back as the ancient Egyptians, men wore condoms made from fabric. When Charles Goodyear patented the rubber vulcanization process in 1837, making it non-adhesive, condoms began to be made from rubber hence their nickname. Female condoms, which trapped the sperm inside the female were introduced in the early 1990s with varying results. Finally, women often rely upon "tube tying," or surgical blockage of the Fallopian tubes which prevents the egg from reaching the sperm or the fertilized from reaching the uterus.
Finally, arguably the most popular birth control method, "the pill," containing the hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation, was introduced in the 1960s.
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