Considering how long people have been shoving stuff into or over their junk in an effort to prevent pregnancy, birth control is still pretty dumb. There’s all those hormonal side effects, the risk of finding yourself in a Sex and the City episode when your diapgragm gets stuck, needing to ask the pharmacist to unlock the condom case, and even then, they can tell you “no” if you don’t look godly enough. Still, it could be a lot worse.


Pocket lint

(Zekerags/Wikimedia Commons)

One of the earliest documented birth control prescriptions from around 1550 B.C.E. was for a substance made of honey, acacia leaves, and lint that was inserted vaginally to block sperm from entering the uterus. And to think, these days, we just throw it out.


Woman eating

(Louis Hansel/Unsplash)

One of the easiest ways to prevent pregnancy in the ancient world was to already have a baby. Between work, low availability of food, and breastfeeding (which already provides some natural hormonal pregnancy prevention in addition to burning a ton of calories), ancient postpartum women often had too little body fat to facilitate conception. Next time you house a cheeseburger, just explain that you’re a beautiful fertility goddess.

Crocodile Dung


(Rae Wallis/Unsplash)

For the beautiful fertility goddesses of Ancient Egypt, animal poop was believed to contain spermicidal properties or at least plug things up, crocodile dung being the poop of choice until it was replaced by elephant dung at some point over the millennium. Probably, it was just whatever was lying around after inconsiderate crocodile or elephant owners took their pets for a walk.


In Ancient Rome, an herb called silphium was revered as a wonder drug that was, among other things, possibly the first truly effective birth control. In fact, they loved (and used) it so much that it went extinct over the course of about 50 years.

The Womb Veil

With the advent of vulcanized rubber in the mid 1800s, one of the first modern diaphragms was designed by Dr. Edward Bliss Foote and became popular with Victorian women. Because everything in Victorian times had to be shrouded in euphemism, it was called a “womb veil,” as if your uterus was going to a fancy party.


Meanwhile, in England, the go-to method from the late 1800s to World War II was a quinine and cocoa butter formula known as Rendell’s that became the “first commercially manufactured birth control suppository.” It may have been squishy, but at least their cervices were silky smooth.

Planned Parenthood

Margaret Sanger

(Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth control clinic in 1916, but it didn’t go down anywhere near as well as in those depraved Netherlands. It was closed down after 10 days by the fuzz and Sanger was imprisoned for a month before the court allowed her to reopen two years later. No word on what happened to all those seized condoms and diaphragms in the meantime, but we like to think “funny hats.”

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills

(Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash)

On May 9, 1960, the FDA approved the first birth control pill after decades of scientific toiling. Perhaps because it took so long, the birth control pill has changed little since, and although there are now all kinds of rings and shots and implants, the hormones involved are still basically the same, proving that “mostly” is good enough for science when it comes to solving women's problems.

Top image: Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

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