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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.

Posted on September 26, 2014, at 1:13 p.m. ET

1. In Cleopatra's time, women used crocodile dung, honey and sodium carbonate as spermicide.


It was probably pretty good at killing the mood.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. In the 19th century, "female pills" promised to spur menstruation when a woman's period was late.

6. Douching syringes and "irrigators" were other options available at the time.

7. 17th- and 18th-century African and Native American women were early innovators of natural family planning.

8. Today, of course, there's an app for that.

9. The Pill was approved by the FDA for contraception in 1960.

10. It's now the most popular method of contraception among American women.

11. Condoms are big business, with global sales expected to reach 44 billion by 2020.

12. Condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

13. Plan B, one of the most widely available brands of emergency contraception, doesn't work as well for women over 165 pounds.

14. The long-lasting 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.

15. However, more American women have been choosing IUDs in recent years.

16. Before they can place an IUD in a patient's uterus, medical students practice on papayas.

They also use the fruits when learning how to perform abortions.

17. Japan didn't legalize the Pill until 1999.

Flickr: Ray Larabie / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: 27117620@N06

And Japanese women haven't flocked to try it out — condoms are still king.

18. Birth control pills are available over the counter in several countries, including India, Ukraine, Guatemala and China.

Flickr: Kalyan Neelamraju / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: kalyan3

The U.S. is among several Western countries that still require women to get a prescription.

19. In some countries where the Pill is available, it's illegal to advertise it.

Flickr: juicyrai / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: wink

This includes Sweden, Germany, Estonia, South Africa, Nicaragua, Honduras, Japan, Uzbekistan and a handful of other nations.

20. Around 200 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but aren't using contraception, the World Health Organization says.

21. Lack of access to effective birth control is part of the problem.

22. Contraception saves children's lives.

23. It also protects women's health.

24. 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.

25. You can explore birth control methods to find one that works for you over at Bedsider.

Bedsider / Via

They assess contraceptive methods by criteria including "most effective," "party-ready," "easy to hide" and "do me now."

26. So go on, celebrate World Contraception Day!

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.