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10 Crazy Facts About Birth Control

19 August 2019

We’re all familiar with contraception (well, we sure hope so ladies!) and its most popular options. But did you know each boasts a rather intriguing backstory? Yes, we’re talking fun facts, and who the hell doesn’t love those? Below are 10 downright bizarre facts about contraception you won’t believe are true (but they bloody well are).

The Notebook GIF by National Women's Law Center

The pill is not the most effective method of contraception

Say what? Yes, you heard that right. In fact, it’s not even the second-most effective method. Topping the list of the 15 or so key birth control offerings is abstinence (tricked ya!). Second is sterilisation (again, rather obvious), then the IUD (the hormone-secreting Mirena is 99.9% while the copper IUD is 99.5%). Next in line is the Implanon rod, followed by The Pill (99% effective but only if taken correctly ie. every day). After the pill comes condoms, which fall victim to human error, breakage, etc.

Condoms were originally made from animal intestines

Sorry vegetarians! Condoms were originally made from the same material used to make sausage casings. However, they were rather porous so not very effective in preventing the spread of STIs. Back in the 1830s animal-based materials were replaced by a vulcanised rubber similar to car tyres. This rubber formula is how we got to the latex variations used today. 

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The first condoms were made from linen

Talking about condoms, we may as well discuss the first of their kind. It was the Ancient Egyptians who were behind the invention. Originally known as ‘penile sheaths’ (wow), they were made from linen to prevent both pregnancy and the spread of venereal infections. It’s safe to say that Cleopatra was seriously woke.

The pill was invented by a devout Catholic

Ironic, considering the Catholic Church has famously only ever endorsed the ‘rhythm method’, devout Catholic, Dr John Rock was the gynecologist behind The Pill. He believed that healthy sex lives can strengthen and lengthen marriages, as well as ease the financial burden of children for those who simply couldn’t afford them.

The Pill wasn’t the original oral contraceptive

Long before The Pill hit the market in the 1960s, there were a few distasteful methods of ingested birth control. Ancient Greeks ate pomegranate seeds believing it prevented pregnancy. They also ingested silphium, a now-extinct strain of fennel found along the coast of North Africa. But that was nothing compared to the Chinese who drank a warm concoction of mercury. While this may have prevented pregnancy, unfortunately, it tends to also lead to infertility and organ failure, if not death.

Cardi B Lemon GIF by Offset

Lemons were also popular

Not only a way to add a fresh twist to your salad, but half lemons were also inserted as a diaphragm-type device. This was obviously popular back in the 1700s when ladies were seriously limited when it came to birth control. While it’s true lemon is a spermicide (aka sperm killer), lemon acid can also be destructive to internal vaginal tissue (ouch). It is rumoured that the one-and-only Casanova was a fan.

There was also that time poo was an option

Gross, yes, and unfortunately also true. This wasn’t even limited to a single culture! The Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians would use crocodile poo as a base to make a pessary of sorts which would sit in the vagina block those good-for-nothing sperms. In Ancient India and the Middle East, they did the same but with elephant poo instead. I think we can all agree that this is most likely the least hygienic method of contraception out there.

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You should never keep condoms in your wallet

God knows where you’re meant to keep them, but condom manufacturers say keeping your condom in a wallet, (or back pocket for that matter) is a no-no. Why? Well because the proximity to the body heat can drastically weaken the latex of a condom meaning easier tears.

The birth control pill wasn’t originally approved for birth control

Rather, it was accepted as a valid antidote period pain. In 1957, when society was seriously conservative, The Pill landed on the market to address severe menstrual problems. The fact it prevented pregnancy was actually listed as a warning. Low and behold, within two years, many women were hoping to fall victim to this “side effect”.

Fail Maya Rudolph GIF by NETFLIX

The Pill affects your sense of smell

Research suggests taking the birth control pill can drastically change your preference in scent. And no we’re not just talking about what fragrance you like. Rather, hormones have the ability to alter our reception to pheromones. While looks play a part, so does someone’s natural musk. In good news, this means you can blame The Pill for your ex-boyfriend.

Fact checked by Sarah Bristow