Birth control is a method or a device that is used to prevent pregnancy. Though safe and effective birth control came into existence only in the 20th century, ways to prevent pregnancy have been devised since ancient times. Birth control has been the centre of many controversies as well.
For pregnancy to occur, sperm must flow up the vagina, through the cervical opening into uterus into one of the fallopian tubes. If an egg is present in the tube, one sperm could fertilise it. Contraceptives either block the sperm kills it before it reaches uterus or prevents ovulation.
History of birth control
- Cave paintings from 15,000 years ago in France apparently depicted condoms.
- Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus from around 1550 BC and Kahun Papyrus from 1850 BC have documented some form of birth control from the ancient Egyptian times. These used honey, acacia leaves etc to be placed in the vagina to block sperm.
- Chinese used Mercury and Lead cocktail that lead to sterility, brain damage, kidney failure and death.
- Things like acacia gums were used to be placed inside the vagina. Acacia has spermatocide properties.
- Other ways were to cover the vagina using gummy substances, sodium carbonate and a mixture made of crocodile dung.
- Less effective coitus interruptus (withdrawal) was also practiced.
- Greek physician Soranus advised women to hold their breath and sneeze after the intercourse in 200 A.D.
- Botanist Theophrastus mentioned the use of Siphilium, a plant that could induce abortion and had contraceptive abilities. It grew scarcely near the city of Cyrene (Libya) and it’s scarcity made it valuable more than it’s weight in Silver in 1st century B.C.
- Indians used a combination of rock salt, honey and elephant dung.
- Olive oil and cedar oil combinations were used in Greece.
- Steaming technique using hot stones and medicated solutions were used to kill sperms. Later a modification using a pipe to push steam into vagina was used in medieval Europe, which often resulted in burns.
- An Indian tradition of sitting on a steaming pot of onion and water was used by Jewish women in Manhattan.
- Lactation for a longer time was also used as way to prevent pregnancy.
- During middle ages, women believed tying weasel testicles to their thighs would prevent pregnancy.
- Giacomo Casanova used partially squeezed lemon halves as cervical cap. Team of Australian scientists found out that lemon juice could indeed kill sperms.
- Animal intestines condoms were widely used in 1600s and in 1700s, linen was also used. They weren’s throw away stuff.
- In the mid-1800s vulcanised rubber was patented and condoms came into use.
- Anti-obscenity laws prevented women from gaining access to condoms in the 19th and early 20thcenturies. Lizol and Coke were used. Diet coke was effective in killing sperm but not fast enough.
- In 1960, oral pills were approved.
- IUDs came in subsequent years.
- In 2016, German carpenter Clemens Bimek patented a device that is implanted into scrotum which has a switch to control ejaculation.
Birth control movement
- Birth control was discussed and was a major political issue in Britain in the 19th century.
- Economist Thomas Malthus wrote in 1798 about the effect of population on the economy.
- Birth control movement advocated the use of contraceptives to allow sexual intercourse without pregnancy.
- Starting 1880s birth rate reduced with the use of condoms that were effective and inexpensive.
- During the later part of the 1900s, more countries gained the right to be able to sell contraceptives more freely.