Contraception from the Past

A blog post by, posted on the 23rd of January.

5 Methods of Contraception that Should Stay in the Past

Downton Abbey recently broached the subject of contraception, which had a lot of people asking, what did Anna buy for Lady Mary? Was it a condom? Did they even have condoms back then? The internet came upon the likely answer that it was in fact a diaphragm that would have been available for Anna to buy in 1924.

Many things have changed since the era in which Downton is set. We've got all kinds of contraception methods available to us - even though sometimes we might complain about them - that are very easy to use.

But imagine that instead of wearing condoms or taking the pill, the only methods of contraception available to you were shots of Mercury after sex or hooch made from ground up beaver testicles. And that's just to prevent pregnancy, not STIs.

Once you've read about these old fashioned contraception methods, today's options won't seem all that bad after all.


It might seem completely crazy to us now, but the Chinese used to believe that if a woman drank a couple of shots of hot (yes, hot) Mercury after having sex, she wouldn't get pregnant. It probably did work in some instances by causing miscarriages, but Mercury is extremely toxic and side effects of ingesting it include brain damage, kidney and lung failure and death.  

Blacksmith Water

If you don't fancy Mercury, why not try your chances with blacksmith water? This method of contraception dates back to ancient Greece and has been used throughout history. No one's quite sure why people believed that drinking the water that blacksmiths used to cool metals would prevent pregnancy. Again this had serious side effects and could result in death.

Coca Cola

Not just a refreshing drink, it was once believed that douching with Coca Cola after sex would stop a woman from getting pregnant. It shouldn't need pointing out that it didn't prevent pregnancy, and just left the person trying it out in a sticky mess.  

Crocodile Faeces

The Egyptians realised that if you stopped sperm from reaching the egg, you wouldn't get pregnant, so they came up with a kind of diaphragm. These early versions were made from honey and crocodile dung, and despite sounding extremely disgusting, it's possible that they may have actually worked.

Beaver Testicles

In the 1700s, Canadians believed that beaver testicles could prevent pregnancy and would grind them up into a fine powder to mix with alcohol. Unsurprisingly, like many of the other methods in this post, it did nothing but leave a bad taste in the person's mouth.

Thankfully these days there are many methods of contraception available that don't involve disgusting ingredients or near death experiences.

Remember that condoms are the only method of contraception that provide protection against both STIs and unplanned pregnancy. You should also get tested regularly for STIs, every 6 months and every time you change partner.


The service offers free chlamydia testing and HIV testing in participating regions. Simply visit to see if you're eligible to order a free STI test kit.

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