Contributed by Heather F.

Contraception has been a way of life since ancient times, as early as the 7th Century in China. This got me thinking about some of the earliest birth control methods as well as the origins of some current methods. Here are some of my discoveries.

Herbs. Ancient Romans used a plant called Silphium (now extinct) 6,000 years ago which seemed to be quite effective. Is it possible that its extinction by 300 AD was due to how well it worked as a contraceptive?

Barrier methods.  In ancient Egypt, women used a small pessary (cervical cap) soaked in goat’s milk and ancient Romans created spermicidal foam with honey and sodium carbonate.  In the 1800s a small sponge-like device, made of cocoa butter and quinine, was inserted into the vagina where it melted and formed a barrier.

Condoms.  Throughout the years there have been a variety of condoms, mainly designed to help prevent the spread of disease.  Men in ancient Europe used condoms made out of animal membranes. In the 1500s, they used linen sheaths that were soaked in an unknown substance that worked as a spermicide.  And, by the 1800s, the Goodyear Tire Company produced condoms made out of rubber.  Hence the slang word “rubbers.”

Withdrawal.  Coitus interruptus, also know as the withdrawal or pull-out method was widely used for at least two millennia, is still in use today. In fact, from the 18th century until the development of modern methods, withdrawal was one of the most popular methods of birth-control in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

Next week we will cover some of today’s popular methods and also provide glimpses into the future of contraception.

What is the craziest birth control myth you have heard of?  We invite you to participate in the conversation by telling us what you think in the box below.