In ancient days, there were no birth control methods like condoms or contraceptive pills available. How did they control pregnancy?

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    $\begingroup$ I have no reference to this at this time, but I believe the Romans used the intenstines of sheep as a condom. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ Although the question is well viewed and upvoted, and has answers already I'm going to suggest that this is perhaps not the most suitable SE site - it's more history rather than biology: history.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 8:37

2 Answers 2


The need for birth control has been a concept for thousands of years and remains an important issue for men and women today, the need for contraception helped humans to achieve control over our population and healthy sexual relationships without having the fear of pregnancy.

The medieval contraception methods mostly relies on plant based oral contraceptives and also plant based suppositories. There is always an element of myth in the usage of these medicines to control child birth, but due to the overusage of Silphion, the plant was gone extinct.

Silphion was a plant that grew in the hills near the Greek city-state of Cyrene located in North Africa. This plant was one example of an oral contraceptive in ancient times, based partly on Pliny's statement that it could be used "to promote the menstrual discharge" but since then has been harvested into extinction. Reference

Asafoetida is widely used as a contraceptive in medieval period, Asafoetida or asafetida is the dried latex exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula.

One of the earliest contraceptive pioneers was Soranus of Ephesus, a Greek physician of the 2nd century C.E. who practiced in Rome and wrote extensively on obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics. Many of his texts exist to this day which describes plants that were recommended for use as oral contraceptives, suppositories and abortifacients: galbanum, silphium, opopanax, myrtle, rue, white pepper, cow parsnip and pomegranate. Reference

Also condom is not a modern mechanism it was used in ancient times, but the usage was to protect oneself from sexually transmitted diseases, but an unknown chemical used which is a spermicide and this resulted in contraception.

Records of condom use dates back to 3000 B.C. where King Minos of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa, utilized the bladders of goats to protect himself during intercourse.

In the 1500s, a syphilis epidemic spread across Europe. It was at this time that Gabriel Fallopius,created a linen condom as a means to protect from the continuing spread of disease . This proved especially effective when soaked in an unknown chemical solution acting as a spermicide. Reference

The medieval contraception methods includes,

  • Condoms
  • Female Barrier Methods
  • Herbs and Rituals
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Male methods
  • The Pill

These methods are widely described in this article.


Condoms have been around for a long long time. Supposedly, condoms made from such materials as fish bladders, linen sheaths, and animal intestines where in use around 3000 BC (reference). Coitus interruptus was tried before that which may or may not be successful. Infanticide was also practiced where an unwanted child was born in ancient societies (reference). You can read all about the history of birth control on wiki.