1. Flo - ovulation calendar, period tracker, and pregnancy app
  2. Your cycle
  3. Sex
  4. Birth control

Weird Birth Control Methods That Should Be Left in the Past for Good

In ancient times, both men and women would use what today we would consider weird birth control methods to prevent pregnancy and even sexually transmitted diseases. However, these ideas and many others from Ancient India and China became the cornerstone for the development of better and more effective birth control methods.

hot peppers and latex condom

Brief history of contraceptive

The history of contraceptives dates back to the 15th century if not earlier where women used different birth control methods to prevent pregnancy. Decade-old manuscripts and other writings show the different birth control methods that were used to help prevent not just pregnancies but also sexually transmitted diseases.

These methods included plant-based and/or physical barrier birth control methods. 

Other forms of contraceptives that were used included plants that had spermicidal effects. Women would also insert fruit acids, pastes, and other mixtures into their vaginas that were capable of killing sperm.

Behavioral methods such as abstinence and sneezing were also used to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  

In the 17th century, women were using diaphragms to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It was not until the late 20th century that the first oral contraceptives were introduced.

So the early forms of contraception led the way to better and more effective forms of birth control.

Ten weird ancient birth control methods 

  • Honey

We know honey to have a lot of health benefits. It used for treating numerous infections and illnesses as well as burns and injuries. It is also used as an ingredient in beauty products including shampoos and body creams. But did you know in Ancient Egypt it was used as an ingredient for birth control?  

Women in ancient Egypt would use honey and other ingredients including acacia leaves to block sperm. They would place these ingredients in a thin cloth (lint) and or a piece of wool and then insert it in their vagina.

  • Crocodile dung

The use of crocodile dung to prevent unwanted pregnancies sounds outlandish and unbelievable. But in ancient Egypt, women would mix crocodile excrement and honey and insert this mixture in their vagina to prevent pregnancy. Whether this method worked, no one knows. Many researchers are doubtful if this method worked at all.

  • Mercury

When you think about mercury, the first thing that comes to mind is not contraception. You may think about fluorescent lights, barometers or thermometers but not contraception.

But believe it or not, in ancient China, mercury was used for birth control. It was very popular among concubines and prostitutes and it was ingested in liquid or pill form.

Now when you think about it, what are the chances that this method worked?

When mercury is ingested, it can cause tremors, weakness, muscle twitching, vision impairment, headaches, bloody diarrhea, and other unpleasant side-effects. So although women in ancient China used this method, it’s highly likely that its use was short-lived. 

  • Squatting and sneezing

When it comes to the withdrawal method form of birth control, the men are responsible for withdrawing when they are about to ejaculate. But according to a fellow called Soranus of Ephesus who was a Roman physician, it was the responsibility of women to withdraw when the man climaxes.

Apparently, the woman was supposed to sense or guess when the man was about to ejaculate. Once she did she was supposed to hold her breath. After intercourse, she was then required to squat down and sneeze several times. And then wash out her vaginal cavity.

woman squeezing lemon juice into bowl on color background
  • Animal intestines

In medieval Europe, animal intestines were used as condoms to help prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as venereal diseases. Intestines of goats, sheep, and even fish were used to create a sheath that was wrapped around a man’s penis.  

  • Lemon

Women use lemons for a variety of reasons. But in the modern world, it is definitely not used as a form of birth control method.

However, in the 17th century women would take half a lemon and juice it to create a cap. They then would insert the cap into their vaginas. The idea behind the lemon cap was that the lemon rinds that remained once the lemon was juiced would help prevent sperm from penetrating the uterus. 

The idea of the lemon cap led to the development of the rubber cervical cap which is still used today.

  • Vinegar

Vinegar has many uses and it also offers numerous health benefits. But in the 16th, women in England used vinegar to wash and douche their genitals. Prostitutes, in particular, would soak sponges in vinegar and insert them in their vaginas.

This was done to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Interestingly enough, vinegar is still used today for douching. However, women who use this method mix the vinegar with water to prevent pain and irritation.

  • Animal gallbladders

The use of gallbladders as a birth control method was popular in ancient Rome. The Romans would use gallbladders from animals such as sheep and goats to protect a woman from getting pregnant and to prevent the transmission of STI’s such as syphilis.  

  • Silphium

Silphium is a plant that was used by Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. They used this plant as a food seasoning, medicine, perfume and to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Women would make some type of juice using the plant’s seeds and then drink it. They would also soak wool in the juice and then insert into their vaginas to prevent unintended pregnancy.

Much like the other ancient birth control methods, researchers are not sure whether silphium was effective or even how it worked. But according to history, the birth rates in Rome were relatively low, which could mean that it may have been effective at preventing pregnancy

  • Contraceptive sponge

The contraceptive sponge was used around 300 AD and it was inserted into a woman’s vagina. It was believed that the sponge would help prevent pregnancy by soaking up the semen.

It is interesting when you think about it. But having a sponge up your vagina can be quite uncomfortable.

Are you on birth control?

Sign up for Flo to remind you take your pills on time.

a woman holding pills and a glass of water

Modern contraception

The first birth control pills were approved in 1957. In 1960, doctors were given the legal right to prescribe control pills but only to women who were married. By the late 1980s, contraceptive pills had hit the market and women could buy them without needing a prescription from a doctor.

Emergency control pills were introduced in the 1960s and they were purposely used to prevent pregnancy. It was not until the 1990s that women could purchase emergency contraceptive pills without a prescription.

The first intrauterine device was developed in the early 1900s by a German physician called Richard Richter. By the 1960s the IUD had been improved and the only thing that remained the same until today was it T-shaped design.

Other forms of birth control that we know today such as contraceptive implants, injection, patches, and tubal ligation came after.

Today, women don’t have to rely on ancient birth control methods to prevent pregnancy as women in ancient times. The birth control options available today are safe, effective and affordable. They are also available to women who are above 18 years of age.      

In close

Although the use of contraceptives became more prevalent in many parts of the world by the 17th century. It also became a topic of heated debate and controversy.

For example, in medieval Europe, the Catholic Church was against the use of birth control because they deemed it as immoral. During that era, women used coitus interruptus (withdrawal method) form of birth control and other methods to prevent pregnancy. Coitus interruptus is considered to be the first form of contraception.

In Britain, birth control was a political issue during the 19th century. An economist by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus wrote a book regarding the benefit of using birth control.

In the 1798 book titled “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” he argued that population growth needs to be controlled to ensure that the available resources are enough to sustain that population. 

But to control the size of the population, preventive methods to lower birth rate would need to be used, rather than humanity relying on disease, war or hunger to limit population growth.

Many people began to see sense in what he was saying and this led to the promotion of birth control.

In brief, ancient forms of birth control may seem weird and bizarre today, but they led the way to better birth control methods such as tubal ligation, condoms, uterine devices and other methods that are highly effective and safe.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolinekee/crazy-historical-birth-control-methods
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_birth_control
https://www.emedicinehealth.com/mercury_poisoning/article_em.htm#what_are_the_symptoms_of_mercury_poisoning
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649591/
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160219-pictures-zika-pope-francis-birth-control-contraception/

Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker

4.8, 279.7K
  • Exactly what I needed Petrichjm
    I use this for fertility awareness as a contraceptive measure. It is so helpful and I am confident in its results. After three months I definitely see a pattern I never noticed. I have learned so many things as well!
  • So accurate Connie Joseph
    I use this app to track my period and symptoms and it's so accurate. I tried a few other apps before this one and they were never so accurate and didn't have as many tools to use.

Read this next

Track your cycle with Flo App

You will receive a one-time SMS. We will not store or use your phone number in any other way.