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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.
bycostellophotography/bycostellophotography

It was probably pretty good at killing the mood.

2. The ancient Egyptians also worried about getting knocked up in the afterlife.

They buried their dead with instructions on how to prevent pregnancy, according to a Planned Parenthood history of birth control.
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.
igorr1/igorr1

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.
Upyanose/Upyanose

He may have been on to something: Australian researchers found lemon juice can obliterate sperm in lab samples.

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

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Pennyroyal, a plant with abortifacient properties, was one ingredient.

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

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Those look... comfy.

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

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They figured out how to track changes in their cervical mucus to predict fertility way before Western science did.

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

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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 95-99% effective.

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

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It didn't become legal for both married and unmarried women everywhere in the U.S. until 1972.

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

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Female sterilization (getting your tubes tied) is a close second and the male condom is third. If only Cleopatra could see us now!

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

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"#familyplanning advertising in Kathmandu. Yes that's a #giantsmilingcondom"

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

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Get lost, sex diseases!

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

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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.

14. The long-lasting IUD is way more popular abroad than it is the U.S.

A medical worker explains the IUD to women at a government health center in the Philippines.
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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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Side effects — experienced or perceived — and gender, religious and cultural issues also play a role, according to the World Health Organization.

22. Contraception saves children's lives.

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Child mortality would decline by 25% if all women put three years between births, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

23. It also protects women's health.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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!

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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.

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