As the world continues a battle for access to women’s health and family planning amidst the Global Gag Rule, which threatens the health and lives of millions of people around the world, we decided to look back at the ridiculous things women have been forced to endure, all in an effort to have more choice in their lives.
Yes — things like weasel testicles were once thought to help prevent pregnancy.
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Today, the world has the resources, technology, and ability to make sure women’s health only progresses forward. Yet, 225 million women who would like to delay pregnancy in developing countries cannot access contraceptives and family planning.
Here are six of the worst contraceptives women have inserted, taken orally, or in the case of weasel testicles simply worn and hoped for the best.
Mercury and Lead
In ancient China, women were told drinking a warm concoction of mercury would prevent pregnancy. What they weren’t told, sadly, was mercury causes infertility, organ failure, and death. In ancient Greece, between 800-600 AD, women drank leftover water from blacksmith work, filled with lead and other toxic metals.
Today, we know even the smallest exposure to mercury and lead pose serious health concerns and development problems for human health, especially children in utero according to the World Health Organization.
Tying Weasel Testicles Around Your Leg
In Europe between 500-100 AD, women tied weasel testicles around their leg during sex to prevent getting pregnant. We can safely say now, this was not an effective tactic.
Crocodile Dung and Honey
Honey was believed to change the acidity in the vagina and prevent pregnancy. The mixture of crocodile dung, honey, cotton, and other herbs was used as a spermicide and applied before sex in ancient Egypt (3051 BC) as a barrier for sperm. Crocodiles were also associated with the Egyptian god Set, the god of violence, and chaos, a possible reason for this specific type of dung to be used.
Sewing thimbles were considered to double as a cervical cap to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg and pregnancy. It didn’t work. But it was used in parts of Europe as late as the 1800s.
This one makes us cringe (OK — they’re all cringe-worthy). Douching with the disinfectant spray Lysol was used in the US during the 1950s. The active ingredient in Lysol is benzalkonium chloride, which is highly toxic in large amounts.
“Benzalkonium chloride is a human skin and severe eye irritant. It is a suspected respiratory toxicant, immunotoxicant, gastrointestinal toxicant and neurotoxicant,” according to the Center for Disease Control.
Beaver Testicles Soaked in Moonshine
Women in Canada during the early stages of the North American fur trade era (1534-1760) didn’t have a lot of options for methods of contraception. During this time period, women resorted to the worst oral contraceptive after lethal mercury and lead: drinking moonshine with ground beaver testicles.
Just as shocking as these methods of contraception, is the fact that 67% of maternal deaths could be prevented if women’s needs for contraceptives was met globally. Nearly 2.5 million lives of both mothers and babies could be saved with better access to safe methods of contraception and family planning.