The Different Contraceptive Methods of Ancient Times

different contraceptive methods of ancient times

Since ancient times, humans have been aware of the benefits of intimate relationships and the inconveniences that children could bring with them. That is why they devised ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies without giving up the pleasure of meat.

Today we have many methods and home tricks to detect pregnancy and also to avoid them, but it is not something exclusive to the modern age. Also in ancient times, they were able to manufacture various contraceptive products. In fact, the history of the condom goes back to the time of the Egyptians.

The women used oral home remedies as contraceptive methods with mixtures of herbs, spices and even heavy metals, with animal entrails and other ingredients that could block semen. They were applied inside or on the genitals.

Egyptian women lengthened the breastfeeding period to space out possible pregnancies. For its part, the contraceptive method of Roman women, especially those who engaged in prostitution in Ancient Rome, consisted of inserting a ball of wool soaked in wine, honey and resins into the vagina. They also washed quickly with cold water after intercourse was over.

Contraceptive methods proposed by the experts of the time

In Egypt, The Ebers Papyrus (1150 BC) tells of a contraceptive method that prevented pregnancy for three years. A mixture with acacia tips, honey and dates was prepared and impregnated in a tampon and inserted into the vagina.

Other methods are discussed in the Petri and Lahun Papyrus (850 BC), such as a mixture made from sour milk, crocodile droppings and honey.

Papiros de Lahun
Lahun VI papyrus, 12th Dynasty medical treatise. (University College London).

The father of gynecology, Sorano of Ephesus, recommends, in a text found in 1838, several methods to prevent conception, among others, coitus interruptus, with the woman being responsible for timely withdrawal.

He advised holding your breath and squatting, sneezing to promote the expulsion of sperm. He also recommended infusions of rue, seeds of different plants, myrtle or myrrh.

The father of medicine, Hippocrates of Cos, comments that the introduction of an object into the uterus could prevent pregnancy. Something similar to the IUD.

Aristotle mentions anointing the womb with cedar oil to prevent pregnancy and Pliny proposes a great superstitious component: the use of amulets to prevent pregnancy.

Contraceptive methods most used in ancient times:


The silphium was similar to fennel. It was taken orally, strands and plant juice were also introduced into the vagina by soaking a cotton ball. Silphium seeds served as currency due to their great demand.

The silfio, a now-defunct plant, is considered a member of the genus Ferula. (Ruben0568 / Wikipedia)

Honey and acacia

A mixture of the acacia fruit with honey was soaked in cotton threads, which were introduced into the vagina before intercourse.

Crocodile manure

In Mesopotamia and Egypt, crocodile manure was mixed with other ingredients and put into the vagina. In India they also used elephant dung. There were possibly many deaths from infections.

Lead and mercury

In ancient times they also used heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic, to prevent pregnancy. Ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, and Chinese, drank a drink of liquid mercury, liquid lead, or arsenic (or a combination of these) to prevent conception.

Wild carrot flower or Queen Anne

One of the measures that was used for the longest time as an effective way to avoid pregnancy was the flower of the wild carrot. Hippocrates names it as an oral and abortifacient contraceptive. In some places it is still taken today.

Olive oil

Greek women used cedar oil mixed with olive oil. They believed that this mixture slowed the mobility of the sperm. After intercourse they had to be washed internally to avoid pregnancy.

Vaginal washes

The women of ancient Rome washed their private parts with different substances, lemon juice, vinegar and sea water.


There was a belief that lemon acid had spermicidal qualities. They soaked cotton with lemon juice and put it in the vagina.


The use of condoms is a very old practice. They were used to prevent diseases. Archeology has found evidence in Egypt and Ancient Greece, despite the submissive and repressed role of the Greek women of that time. These condoms, also known as olisbos, were made from membranes of animals, intestines and bladders.

In the time of Lucius Cornelius Sila (82 BC – 79 BC) contraceptives were prohibited as a result of the low birth rate and the large number of abortions.