Birth Control Essay

Pages: 8 (2675 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] As mentioned earlier, the medieval methods of contraception have been in use since a very long time, and only recently the effective methods of contraception have been devised.

Now with extensive studies, the researchers have figured out that the reason why the herbs and plants that were being used by these people were not effective methods of contraception is that the women need to understand the difference between agents that were contraceptives and the agents that induced abortions[footnoteRef:7]. [7: Riddle, 1992]

The main factor that led to the people adopting the birth control methods did not have anything to do with pestilence, war or inadequate food supply, but in fact it was just that people at that time who wanted small families. For instance, at that time the population of the Roman Empire was decreasing, even though Rome was witnessing a time of prosperity with adequate food supply for all the people.

Now we shall look at some of the potions that were used by the ancient Romans to prevent conception. There was a plant that was not certainly identified but was known as Epimediendumalpinum L., which was also sometimes referred to as BotrychiumLunaria. It has been said that this plant was used to induce sterility when the leaves of this plant were ground. Moreover, when this plant was taken in wine after menstruation, it prevented conception for at least five days. Apart from this, we also find out through the historical notes that the roots of the fern or brake were consumed by women to prevent conception and when they were given to a pregnant lady, they caused a miscarriage. It was also known that another plant called Ostracite prevented conception for about four days when it was taken with wine after menstruation.

Oribasios was also taken by women in sweet tasting wine after intercourse so as to prevent conception.

Galen, one of the most renowned medical researchers, contributed a great deal of knowledge about physiology, surgery and medicine to the Roman health literature. Even though his main specialty was surgery, he also found out some ways of contraception by making use of natural substances that would induce abortion in pregnant ladies. He also mentioned some of the astringent substances that could prevent the semen of the male from reaching up to the womb of the female[footnoteRef:8]. Moreover, Hippocratic corpus is full of oral drugs that could be taken so that abortion could be induced since during the time of Hippocrates the medical researchers and workers did not understand completely how conception worked inside the body of the woman[footnoteRef:9] [8: Galeni P., 1992] [9: Kapparis, 2003]

Even though the Ancient Rome had made advancements in many ways, magic and superstition was a prominent part of the society even among the very educated people. These people had the tendency to believe and trust the superstitions of that time. It has been discovered that it was a common practice to make a woman consume the menstrual blood of another woman so that she may not conceive or become sterile. Another magical method to prevent conception was that these people used to tie up an amulet to asparagus and this was then drunk and used as a method of birth control.

Surgical Methods

Even though most of the methods that were used for birth control by the women of ancient Greece and Rome were botanical, there is some evidence of the use of some surgical instruments for abortion. The botanist of that time and the people who were interested in studying medicine and surgery did a great deal of research in finding out ways of preventing conception and inducing abortion. As these people were on some of the herbs that had some contraceptive and abortive properties, some work was also being done on the development and production of surgical instruments.

One of the instruments that were rather spectacular at that time and even fearsome looking was the vaginal dilator that in the contemporary world is known as a speculum of dioptra. This instrument was first made in Rome before Greece. This instrument comprises of a priapiscus along with two or sometimes even 3 or 4 valves, which were shaped like a dovetail, and that were opened and closed with the help of a handle along with a screw mechanism. An arrangement of this sort was still found in the surgical instruments of the 18th century Europe. The first mention of speculum was made by Soranus where he explains that instrument was made especially for the vagina. The use of this instrument was significantly recommended by the Greek and Roman writers in their writings about gynecology and obstetrics. Apart from its use in the diagnosis as well as treatment of uterine and vaginal disorders, this medical instrument was also used to take out the baby once it died intrauterine by the use of herbs that had the properties to cause abortion. This instrument was relatively large in size and could be recognized readily; therefore, they were not subjected to easy destruction as were other instruments including needles, scalpels and probes. However, the scalpels were recycled more than any other instrument because they were made from bronze.

Conclusion

It can rightly be said that the women of the ancient Greece and Rome did have access to birth control methods, which were semi-relaible as compared to the ones that have been devised today. It has also been established that these women were not influenced by political or religious authorities concerning the methods of contraception. Although most of the research pertaining to the methods of birth control is limited to Rome and Greece; Egypt and Jews are also known for working on the contraceptive technologies. The basic properties of the herbs and plants that were used as contraceptives are used in the contemporary world with further improvements to make them effective for a longer period of time. Since Rome and Greece did a lot of research on the contraceptive methods, this topic has never-ending research.

Bibliography

Ahmed, S.; Li, Q.; Liu, L.; Tsui, A.O. "Maternal deaths averted by contraceptive use: An analysis of 172 countries." The Lancet 380 (2012): 111 -- 125.

Cleland, J.; Conde-Agudelo, A.; Peterson, H.; Ross, J.; Tsui, A. "Contraception and health." The Lancet 380 (2012): 149 -- 156.

Galeni P, Claudii (1992). In OdysseasHatzopoulos. "That the best physician is also a philosopher" with an Modern Greek Translation.1992.

Kapparis, K. "Women and Family in Athenian Law." D-mos Classical Athenian Democracy a Stoa Publication, 2003.

Lipsey, Richard G.; Carlaw, Kenneth; Bekar, Clifford."Historical Record on the Control of Family Size." Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth. Oxford University Press (2005). pp. 335 -- 40.

London, Kathleen. The History of Birth Control.http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1982/6/82.06.03.x.html

Riddle, John. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World… [END OF PREVIEW]

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