26 Family Planning Facts To Celebrate World Contraception Day
We've come a long way, baby. But millions of women who want contraception still don't have access.
In Cleopatra's time, women used
crocodile dung, honey and sodium carbonate as spermicide.
It was probably pretty good at killing the mood.
The ancient Egyptians also worried about getting knocked up in the afterlife.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
They buried their dead with instructions on how to prevent pregnancy, according to a
Planned Parenthood history of birth control.
In the 17th century, French women used sponges soaked in
brandy to fight sperm.
Or at least get them hammered and distracted as they swam towards the egg.
Casanova, the 18th-century Italian ladies' man, put
lemon halves over the cervixes of women he bedded.
He may have been on to something: Australian researchers found lemon juice can
obliterate sperm in lab samples.
In the 19th century,
"female pills" promised to spur menstruation when a woman's period was late.
Pennyroyal, a plant with abortifacient properties, was one ingredient.
Douching syringes and "irrigators" were other options available at the time.
17th- and 18th-century African and Native American women were early innovators of
natural family planning.
They figured out how to
track changes in their cervical mucus to predict fertility way before Western science did.
Today, of course, there's an app for that.
Natural family planning methods require considerable effort, and couples must abstain or use another method, such as condoms, on fertile days. When used perfectly, natural family planning can be
The Pill was approved by the FDA for contraception in 1960.
It didn't become legal for both married and unmarried women everywhere in the U.S. until
It's now the most
popular method of contraception among American women.
Female sterilization (getting your tubes tied) is a close second and the male condom is third. If only Cleopatra could see us now!
Condoms are big business, with global sales expected to reach
44 billion by 2020.
"#familyplanning advertising in Kathmandu. Yes that's a #giantsmilingcondom"
Condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Plan B, one of the most widely available brands of emergency contraception, doesn't work as well for women over 165 pounds.
Ella is a better bet, according to study
findings. The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is also highly effective if it's inserted within five days after unprotected sex.
IUD is way more popular abroad than it is the U.S.
Erik De Castro / Reuters / Reuters
A medical worker explains the IUD to women at a government health center in the Philippines.
However, more American women have been choosing IUDs in recent years.
Modern brands like Skyla, which is targeted at young women, have helped the IUD overcome a bad rap. In the 1970s, a flawed model called the
Dalkon Shield caused infections, miscarriages and more than a dozen deaths.
Japan didn't legalize the Pill until
Flickr: Ray Larabie / Creative Commons / Via
And Japanese women haven't flocked to try it out — condoms are still king.
Birth control pills are available
over the counter in several countries, including India, Ukraine, Guatemala and China.
Flickr: Kalyan Neelamraju / Creative Commons / Via
The U.S. is among several Western
countries that still require women to get a prescription.
In some countries where the Pill is available, it's illegal to
Flickr: juicyrai / Creative Commons / Via
This includes Sweden, Germany, Estonia, South Africa, Nicaragua, Honduras, Japan, Uzbekistan and a handful of other nations.
200 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but aren't using contraception, the World Health Organization says.
In Kenya, for example, 39% of married women use what the
Population Reference Bureau calls "modern methods" — such as the Pill, the IUD, condoms, injections, sterilization, diaphragms and some methods of natural family planning.
Lack of access to effective birth control is part of the problem.
Side effects — experienced or perceived — and gender, religious and cultural issues also play a role, according to the
World Health Organization.
It also protects women's health.
Contraceptives in the developing world prevent more than 200 million unplanned pregnancies, 40 million unsafe abortions and 100,000 maternal deaths, the
UN Population Fund says.
Human trials are slated to start in the U.S. next year for
Vasalgel, a new birth control method for men that blocks sperm from leaving the vas deferens.
Testing on baboons has been promising, and makers hope Vasalgel could be an option for men as early as 2017. A similar product is in clinical trials in India.
You can explore birth control methods to find one that works for you over at
Bedsider / Via
They assess contraceptive methods by criteria including "most effective," "party-ready," "easy to hide" and "do me now."
So go on, celebrate World Contraception Day!
This guy's got your back.
An earlier version of this post used the terms "natural family planning" and "the rhythm method" interchangeably. The
rhythm method is one of several natural family planning methods that vary in effectiveness. Items 7 and 8 have been updated for clarity.