How Has Birth Control Developed Over The Years?

Sex comes with the consideration of contraception, and while it may seem like it’s a burden, it’s surprising how far its developed in just the last century. And with that, there’s even more innovations to come. From the early days of makeshift condoms and crocodile dung to the dry orgasm pill, contraceptives have seen many developments and guises. In the 1950s, doctors knew that a few medications, usually taken from high blood pressure and schizophrenia, could make male patients sterile. But in 2006, researchers finally realised why – both of these medications freeze the muscle contractions that propel sperm through the reproductive tract. The result is the same orgasm, simply without the sperm. Researchers are looking into ways to turn this into a marketable pill, but its still in the early stages. On the topic of male drugs, RISUG is one of the most promising male contraceptives which is currently in development. It simply requires one injection to the vas deferens, which is the tube that carries the sperm from the testes to the urethra. The chemical compound that partially blocks the tube but any sperm that makes it past the blockade is damaged, so that it is unable to fertilise the egg. In fact, just one application of this can last up to ten years.

Phthalates are chemicals which are added to plastic to make it more flexible when it’s being used in products, showing up in everything from shampoo bottles to kids toys. They’re actually a major health concern despite their prevalence, with increasing evidence that they could affect puberty and the human reproductive system. The Population Council are looking to build on this though by changing testosterone levels and lowering sperm counts with them, and in doing so creating a new male birth control method. Men are the future of contraceptives, with plenty of development going into finding new effective drugs and treatments. One possible option being researched at the moment is finding a chemical that stops the sperm from maturing, so that they can’t fertilise eggs. It’s thought to be ten or more years away from being ready, but Adjudin could well be the answer – it would probably be in a patch or implant form, rather than a pill.

Women haven’t been forgotten entirely though. In the future, women may well be able to combine normal birth control with a factor that helps them to stay fertile for longer. This could well mean pushing the menopause back by decades. Each month, dozens of eggs begin to grow in the ovaries of a woman, and usually one fully matures where the others simply die. Fertility expert Dr Roger Gosden believes that a career pill could stop this waste and leave more eggs available as a woman reaches her 30s and 40s. The sponge was also popular among Jewish communities, and was just that – a dried piece of sea sponge wrapped in silk and with a string attached for removal. Women often soaked it in lemon juice or vinegar to kill off sperm. But sometimes the best methods are those which have been around the longest. Originally made out of animal guts or linen, condoms have been a long-lasting contraceptive that has been used for centuries thanks to its reliability and effectiveness. The remains of real condoms, dating back to the 1600s, have been found in the UK; artistic representations have even been found in Egyptian drawings that date back more than 3000 years.

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