Dirty, Sexy Pill: A History of Birth Control


If you haven’t heard, there’s been a little thing called Health Care Reform buzzing around the country for the past couple years. Some laud it, others loathe it. Recent news out of Washington, D.C. may leave some women a little lighter in the wallet. The news is that women may soon be entitled to free contraception under heath care reform. Yes, this means free birth control pills, intrauterine devices, patches, and vaginal rings.

U.S. News and World Report Health shares that one studies shows “publicly-funded contraception saves taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent by preventing nearly 2 million pregnancies and 810,000 abortions every year.” Nonetheless, this move is already being met with opposition from the Catholic Church. John Haas is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. As he told The Huffington Post, “We think there are other ways to avoid having children than by ingesting chemicals paid for by health insurance.”

So there’s a chance birth control might soon be available to women as never before. As a feminist, I think this is fantastic news. As an environmentalist, this is a bit worrisome. We’ve already addressed the ecological impact of the Pill, noting that the flood of pill-caused estrogen into the water ways has negative, hormone-disrupting effects on wildlife. Not to mention, a flood of hormones can be toxic to your body.

But birth control has been around since the dawn of time, and earlier forms were all free of synthetic hormones. Here’s a nod to some of the ancient forms of contraception. (We’re not suggesting you use them. Just nod at them.)


Acacia Shrub

Ancient Egyptians used to grind up acacia, honey and dates to be inserted into their vaginas. The temperature of the body would then ferment the product into an early spermicide.



Already have a baby? Lactation was considered a useful form of birth control in ancient Egypt. (It still is, thought it is not the most effective form.)


Animal-Membrane Condoms

In 19th century France, men used animal-membrane condoms. You may never look at a lamb the same way.


Lemon Juice

Marie Claire reports that the ancient women of Constantinople used sponges dipped in lemon juice. It is thought that sperm can’t survive in a highly acidic environment, so lemon acts as a sperm-killing agent. Studies have shown that it is not too kind to the uterus, either.


Queen Anne’s Lace

The use of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) dates back to the late 4th or 5th century. Its seeds release a chemical that makes it difficult for a woman to carry a pregnancy.

Images: dhobern, hodac, kiwinz, kirstenloza, sneezypb

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.