Today, we have access to a range of ways to avoid getting pregnant or picking up some nasty sexually transmitted infection, even if no method (other than complete abstinence) is 100% effective. Back in the 1800s, the need for contraception was no different, but I’ll be honest…some of their methods weren’t pretty!Here are a few examples of things women, especially prostitutes, did to avoid getting pregnant:
Relying on the rhythm method.
Using a womb veil, or cervical cap, which could be made out of the scraped out rind of half a lemon or treated sheep intestines.
Using early forms of condoms which were - ew - made out of sheep intestines or rubber. The latter could be washed out and reused. (Environmentally friendly!)
Inserting vinegar soaked sponges into the woman to create a hostile environment for ‘swimmers’.
Douching with a variety of substances such as pearlash, carbolic acid, quinine or lemon juice. Sometimes they created douches out of arsenic or mercury, combined with herbs like juniper, asafoetida and pennyroyal.
Having intercrural sex, which was simulating intercourse by holding the man’s erection between your thighs.
Indulging in anal sex.
The last resort - abortion - either by ingesting something with abortifacient properties, such as Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, or visiting an abortionist.
This list isn’t comprehensive, so let me know if you’re aware of any others.
Have a great month!