It’s easy to feel frustrated by modern birth control options. None of them work perfectly for all women all the time. Still, birth control has come a long way in the past fifty years. In fact, just looking back in history makes me really, really glad I’m a 21st century physician.
Just consider a few of these birth control “choices” from the past:
Sneezing: The ancient Greek physician Soranus recommended that women sneeze after sex, with the idea that the sudden movement would expel semen from the body. Further, women could trigger a sneeze by holding their breath during sex. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for enjoyment? If one of your alternatives was using a vaginal suppository made from cat testicles (another ancient Greek method), holding your breath and sneezing might seem like a great idea. Except that the “Soranus method” resulted in a noted baby boom.
Pig intestines: Though not everyone knows it, condoms existed long before the invention of latex. In fact, condoms have been made from various animal intestines throughout much of history. The oldest condom still in existence was made in 1640 from pig intestines and could be reused indefinitely, according to the Latin directions. The author also recommended rinsing it in milk prior to coitus to help prevent disease transmission. Again, it might not sound pleasant (or effective), but it probably beats another form of male birth control from the Middle Ages . . .
Bloodetting: Apparently, at least some physician endorsed reducing male libido (and thus sex) through blood-letting. This is precisely the position taken by 16th century French physician Jacques Ferrand in his work A treatise on lovesickness. Ferrand recommends that, if moderate bloodletting fails to dampen desire, the man should be bled until he “is ready to fall downe for faintnesse, and losse of blood.” Bring on the pig intestines anyone?
Lemon halves: The infamous 18th century seducer Cassanova would never have subjected himself to bloodletting. He preferred to have his lovers use the rind of a lemon half as a make-shift cervical cap. Interestingly enough, he may have been on to something. Lemon juice contains a weak concentration of citric acid which can immobilize or at least slow down sperm cells. Still, I don’t think I’ll be recommending lemon rinds to my patients any day soon.
Crocodile dung: As I mentioned earlier vaginal suppositories made from cat testicles were available in Ancient Greece. At different times in history, beaver and weasel testicles were considered effective as well. Feeling a bit queasy? Perhaps you would prefer the crocodile dung pessaries used by the Ancient Egyptians. Like lemon juice, dung does have some spermicidal properties. What’s more, it is easy to shape into a physical barrier. Still, I am sure we can all heave a collective sigh of relief that this particular contraceptive method has become entirely obsolete.
Well, that’s all folks. There are plenty more bizarre methods of birth control out there, but we at South Lake would prefer to speak with you about the more effective (and less gross) options available today. If you are thinking about using modern birth control, or need to discuss a new method of contraception, please call or write us today.