History of birth control

The history of birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, refers to the methods or devices that have been historically used to prevent pregnancy. Planning and provision of birth control is called family planning. In some times and cultures, abortion had none of the stigma which it has today, making birth control less important.

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Ancient world

Ancient Egypt

Birth control and abortion are well documented in Ancient Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus from 1550:BC and the Kahun Papyrus from 1850:BC have within them some of the earliest documented descriptions of birth control, the use of honey, acacia leaves and lint to be placed in the vagina to block sperm. Another early document explicitly referring to birth control methods is the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus from about 1850 BC. It describes various contraceptive pessaries, including acacia gum, which recent research has confirmed to have spermatocidal qualities and is still used in contraceptive jellies. Other birth control methods mentioned in the papyrus include the application of gummy substances to cover the "mouth of the womb" (i.e. the cervix), a mixture of honey and sodium carbonate applied to the inside of the vagina, and a pessary made from crocodile dung. Lactation (breast-feeding) of up to three years was also used for birth control purposes in ancient Egypt.

The Book of Genesis references withdrawal, or coitus interruptus, as a method of contraception when Onan "spills his seed" (ejaculates) on the ground so as to not father a child with his deceased brother's wife Tamar.

Ancient Greece and Rome

Ancient silver coin from Cyrene... ...read more
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