Ancient Forms of Birth Control
A look at some of the earliest forms of contraception
Though contraception remains a hot button issue today, contraception in various forms are among the most enduring products on the planet. Some forms of contraception are as old as the pyramids—literally. See a list of some of the earliest and most enduring forms of birth control below.
1) Acacia gum: One of the earliest forms of contraception documented in the written word, Acacia gum (a natural gum made from the hardened sap of Acacia trees) is also the most enduring. First mentioned on a papyrus dating back to 1850 B.C. It continues to be used in contraceptive jellies.
2) Crocodile dung: Yep, you read that right. The hardened feces of crocodiles were used as one of the earliest precursors to the modern day cervical cap, creating a barrier to conception.
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3) Silphium: Numerous plants were used as forms of contraception in ancient Greece including Queen Anne’s lace and pomegranate. The most popular among them was silphium. Silphium is believed to have had the same impact of the morning after pill today and became so popular that it was actually featured on Greek coins, and eventually due to high demand became extinct around the 2nd or 3rd century BC.
4) Breastfeeding: Officially referred to as “Lactational Amenorrhea Method” (LAM), prolonged breastfeeding (usually every 4 to 6 hours daily for an extended period of time after childbirth) remains a natural form of family planning in many cultures and was first documented in ancient Egypt where women routinely breastfed 3 years or more.
5) Glans condoms: The precursor to the modern day condom for men was a smaller covering made of lamb intestines, used only for the tip of male genitalia in upper class households in China and Japan around the 15th century. Later versions in 16th century Europe were used to combat syphilis as opposed to pregnancy and were held in place by ribbon.