The practice of contraception (family planning or birth control) or preventing pregnancy is as old as human existence. For centuries, humans have relied upon their imagination to avoid pregnancy.
- Egyptian ancient writings dating back to 1850 BC refer to techniques using a device placed in a woman's vagina made of crocodile dung and fermented dough, which most likely created a hostile environment for sperm. Other items placed in the vagina included plugs of gum, honey and acacia.
- During the early second century in Rome, a highly acidic concoction of fruits, nuts and wool was placed on the cervix as a type of spermicidal barrier.
Today, the voluntary control of fertility is of paramount importance to modern society. Even though the UN says fertility rates are decreasing in parts of the world, the planet's population is still growing.
For the individual woman, the ability to control effectively when and whether she becomes pregnant affects her ability to achieve her own goals and contribute to her sense of wellbeing. A woman's choice of contraception method involves factors such as how easy it is to use, safety, risks, cost and personal considerations.
There are also many myths about contraception, such as not being able to get pregnant when breastfeeding, which you can.
Research into new contraceptive methods continues at a rapid pace. Many new birth control designs that are safer and more effective are being tested to provide a greater variety of methods with fewer side effects.
Pill for men: One exciting new development is a hormonal contraceptive method for men. The male birth control pill manipulates steroid hormones to decrease sperm development.
Injection for men: A reversible male birth control method, injections are given every two months to suppress sperm production.
Implants: Newer methods of implants that go under the skin are on the horizon, such as biodegradable versions that would not need surgical removal
Tubal ligation, new methods: A few potential methods of tubal sterilisation are under investigation. These include chemical scarring of the fallopian tubes or blocking the fallopian tubes with a plug.
Vaccine: A pregnancy vaccine is one of the most controversial and exciting forms of contraception being researched. It would work by stimulating an immune response against sperm so that fertilisation does not occur.