13 Historical Birth Control Methods That Should Stay In The Past

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Nothing says safe sex like crocodile dung and
tortoise shells.

Long before we had
modern contraception methods like latex
condoms, birth control pills, and IUDs, people
were doing some pretty interesting things to
avoid getting pregnant.

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You may even be familiar with one of the first
birth control tactics:
pulling out. “One of the most
ancient forms of contraception was actually
the withdrawal method, which was described as
coitus interruptus in the Bible,”

Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of
obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive
sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells
BuzzFeed Health.

But just like people today, our ancestors
didn’t want to rely solely on pulling out
before ejaculation. So, they came up with other
ideas to prevent pregnancy. And even though
some of these ancient methods seem crazy, many
were rooted in the same logic behind the
contraception we use today: blocking off the
cervix, killing sperm, preventing ovulation,

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So, here are some of the craziest forms of
birth control from the past. And remember, do
not try any of these… they were left in the
past for a reason.

Seriously, we do not recommend that you use any
of the outdated forms of birth control
described in this article. Always consult your
doctor or a trusted healthcare professional
about effective birth control regimens.

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Blocking your cervix with crocodile poop

Blocking your cervix with crocodile poop

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Way back in
1850 BCE, Egyptian women would take
crocodile dung and insert it up near the cervix
before sex to block sperm from entering. They’d
usually mix it with honey because it was known
for it’s antibacterial properties and it helped
the dung stick up near the cervix.

While we aren’t sure how effective this method
was, the fact that it was documented well
enough to survive in historical records for
thousands of years suggests that it probably
did an okay job — or at least it was pretty
popular. That being said, shoving crocodile
poop up your vagina before sex sounds to us
like fifty shades of infection.

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Inserting honey “tampons”

Inserting honey "tampons"

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Ancient Egyptian women were also using some of
the earliest barrier methods: vaginal
suppositories made out of honey. These were
described around 1550 BCE in
Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest
medical texts in the world.

Women were told to make a mixture of honey and
acacia leaves, which they would smear inside
the vaginal canal to act as a spermicide or
make into a bundle with wool and lint (like an
ancient tampon) to place up near the cervix.
Unlike the dung method, at least this one
probably smelled (and tasted) a lot more

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Lodging a piece of stone or bronze into your

Lodging a piece of stone or bronze into your vagina

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A pessary is essentially an object, device, or
suppository inserted into the vagina to block
the cervix or kill sperm. It’s similar to a
diaphragm or cervical cap, but back in the
Roman Empire around 200 BCE, they were made out
of hard things like stone and bronze (like the
pessary pictured above).

The Greek physician Dioscorides described
pessaries in his legendary medical text

Materia Medica and advised women to
soak them in peppermint oil, which might have
provided a numbing effect. Because, while the
pessaries might have been effective, they were
probably very painful for women during sex.

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Downing some mercury after sex

Downing some mercury after sex

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It is believed that in Ancient China,
prostitutes and concubines were advised to
liquid mercury or take it in tablet form
after sex to avoid getting pregnant, because it
prevented ovulation. The effectiveness of
mercury at preventing pregnancy is
questionable, but we’re guessing it didn’t last
very long as a popular contraceptive given the

side effects of consuming metallic mercury:
tremors, headache, kidney failure, death…

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Squatting and sneezing the sperm out

Squatting and sneezing the sperm out

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The Ancient Roman gynecologist
Soranus thought that women should
take responsibility for the withdrawal method
by doing the following: holding their breath
when they believed their parter was
ejaculating, then getting up immediately after
intercourse to squat and sneeze repeatedly,
then washing out their vagina. Because, sure.

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Wrapping the penis in goat bladders

Wrapping the penis in goat bladders

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Starting around 700 BCE, the
ancient Romans would use bladders from
goats, sheep, and other animals to wrap around
the penis during sexual intercourse.
Apparently, the Romans were invested in ideas
of public health and created this method to
“protect women” and prevent the transmission of
venereal diseases like syphilis.

Although these goat bladder condoms were
originally intended for protection against
venereal diseases, they ended up being a pretty
effective contraceptive method and people used
them well into the Medieval Period.

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Smearing cedar oil and frankincense in the

Smearing cedar oil and frankincense in the vagina

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Although it sounds more like a potpourri or an
air freshener, this natural ointment mixture
was a popular contraception method around the
4th century in
Ancient Greece. Women would smear a mixture
of cedar oil, frankincense, and sometimes

lead, into their vaginas and around their
cervix to prevent pregnancy. It was believed
that the oil mixture acted as a spermicide, and
it was actually recommended by Aristotle in his
early medical texts.

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Putting little silk paper hats on penises

Putting little silk paper hats on penises

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Around the 12th century, the Chinese were using
something called a “glans condom,” an early
predecessor to the first condom that basically
only covers the head (glans) of the penis.

People in China used their expertise in silk
and paper-making to form silk paper sheaths,
which were then soaked in oil for lubrication
and spermicidal purposes. They were placed over
the top of the penis during sex to catch the
sperm and prevent it from entering the uterus.
“These oiled paper cones could also act as a
kind of a cervical cap,” Minkin says.

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9. Just
straight up putting a tortoise shell on your

Just straight up putting a tortoise shell on your penis

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Unlike other early condom-like methods from
around the world, the method used in 13th
century Japan was a little less… flexible. The
Japanese prevented pregnancy using a hard
sheath made out of
tortoise shell, that was worn on the penis
to keep the sperm from entering the woman’s
uterus. This method definitely wins a gold star
for contraception creativity, but… OUCH.

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Securing linen condoms onto your penis with a
little ribbon

Securing linen condoms onto your penis with a little ribbon

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The first person to actually describe the
condom in the sense we know today was Italian
Gabriele Falloppio in the late 14th
century, who is best known for first describing
the fallopian tubes (which are named after

Falloppio came up with the idea to help prevent
the spread of syphilis, which was still
ravaging Europe. The condom was basically a
sheath made of linen, which you would slip over
the head of the penis and tie tightly around
the base using a ribbon… like a little penis
bonnet. Kind of cute, right?

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Douching with vinegar

Douching with vinegar

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Around the 16th century in Elizabethean
England, women were advised to wash their
genitals and douche using vinegar — like the
same kind you clean with.

“Women sometimes used other harsh astringents
in the vagina before sex, because they believed
it would kill sperm,” Minkin says.
Vinegar-soaked sponges were apparently a
popular option for Elizabethan prostitutes.

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Shoving half a squeezed lemon in your vagina

Shoving half a squeezed lemon in your vagina

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Imagine cutting a lemon in half and juicing it
so the rind forms a little cap. Starting around
the mid-17th century, women would insert this
into their vagina before sex — the idea was
that the rind would prevent sperm from entering
the uterus through the cervix and the acidic
juice would kill sperm, too.

“The mechanism of the lemon cervical cap,
blocking the cervix, is the same idea behind
the modern rubber cervical cap invented in
1927, which is still used with spermicide as a

contraception today,” Minkin says.

“Casanova was actually known for using this
method with his many lovers,” Minkin says.
Giacomo Casanova wrote about using the
partially squeezed lemon halves in his famous
18th century memoirs. Whether or not the lemon
juice stings the shit out of your vag, well,
that’s something we might want to leave behind
in history.

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Animal intestines


Yes, animal intestines might sound disgusting
— especially in a sexual context — but these
were actually a predecessor to the modern
condom, folks. It came into use around the

Renaissance in Europe to curb venereal
diseases and illegitimate children in
the royal families. “Before the rubber
revolution in the 19th century, people used
intestines from fish or sheep to wrap around
the penis and catch sperm,” Minkin says.

While the idea of wrapping your peen in
animal guts isn’t exactly sexy, the logic
behind this method is what led to the
creation of the condoms we still rely on for
contraception in the 21st century. Plus,
people do still use
lambskin condoms today as a more natural,
latex-free option (although they don’t
protect against STIs).

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So contraception has come a long, long way.

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It’s worth mentioning that many people in the
US had to use alternative or outdated
methods even up until the 1950s, because the
use of modern contraception (like condoms,
diaphragms, and pills) was a punishable crime.
Actually, birth control was illegal in the US
for nearly a century under the
Comstock Act passed in 1873.

“Birth control wasn’t officially legal until
1965 after the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold
v. Connecticut, which made it unconstitutional
for the government to prohibit married couples
from using birth control,” Minkin says. So
we’ve technically only had access to safe,
effective birth control for about fifty years.

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