6:49 pm - 09/15/2009

old school birth control

This is strictly a point of historical curiosity, not something I'm planning on practicing.

I was reading somewhere that the French aristocracy used sea sponges, soaked in vinegar and inserted into the vagina before sex as a means of birth control and that it supposedly worked very well.

Would that work?! Wouldn't it completely screw up the ph of the vagina? Wouldn't it hurt? Ever since I read about it, I've wondered if it was really a potential birth control method (again, out of curiosity, not any desire to use it myself) and I thought maybe you guys could help answer that.

ETA: Okay, now I'm thinking I would like to try this. Maybe if I was ever in a situation where getting pregnant wouldn't be the end of the world, I would give it a try. *g*
fireaphid 15th-Sep-2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Actually, the healthy vaginal pH is pretty well-matched to vinegar. That's why it's a great treatment for yeast infections. It might sting a little, but if the vagina is healthy and free of tears, it's probably not too bad.

As for how well it would work. . . if you have a microscope (a cheap-o kiddie one will do), I'd bet you can test it. Ask your favorite male-bodied buddy for a fresh semen sample, and divide it into two portions. Put a few drops of vinegar on one of them and compare the two specimens under a microscope. I'd bet it kills/slows some sperm, but probably not all of them. A really good test would be to divide the initial sample into three and apply a modern spermicide to the last sample, and see how that compares to vinegar and nothing over a few minutes.
stereosymbiosis 15th-Sep-2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
I really want to do this now! haha
miss_conduct 16th-Sep-2009 12:17 am (UTC)
So do I!
notadate 16th-Sep-2009 12:22 am (UTC)
I want to try this now. Sadly I have no one I could ask to give me a sample.
whitelime 16th-Sep-2009 12:39 am (UTC)
I've got the sample but not the microscope... boo.
criswithnoh 16th-Sep-2009 02:21 am (UTC)
hmm could I find some way to bring up that experiment in Microbiology?
fireaphid 16th-Sep-2009 03:16 am (UTC)
It's really not my area of expertise (I'm a physicist), but I guess it could come up pretty naturally if your course covers chemical environments, or if you actually talk about sperm in class. But, I don't know if you'd be able to do the experiment in a class since it requires byproducts of human beings, and that usually means tons of paperwork even if it's just for curiosity. You could always write a little anonymous note to the instructor asking about it. (-;
notadate 16th-Sep-2009 12:21 am (UTC)
It was the late 18th century I was reading about, so around that time. And, yes, definitely more effective than most of what they had. Especially considering mostly the only other things they had were withdrawal and condoms made from sheep intestines that were reused and tore easily.
ssha 23rd-Sep-2009 06:45 am (UTC)
In my research on the subject years ago, I also seem to remember that some women used lemon juice, rather than vinegar.
typewriteher 16th-Sep-2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Things like this have always fascinated me too, and I want to try them. I read once that sometimes women near citrus orchards would use oranges to prevent pregnancy. They would slice them in half and remove some of the fleshy center, then insert it like a diaphragm. Lovers couldn't feel them, and the acidity worked as a spermicide. Supposedly it was the favorite protection method of Cassanova.
notadate 16th-Sep-2009 02:29 am (UTC)
That's so cool. DIY birth control. *g*
ladyivorypale 16th-Sep-2009 05:17 am (UTC)
I really hope they were tiny oranges, and not those giant ones we get today.
freespirit_me 16th-Sep-2009 05:56 am (UTC)
That was my thought! Eek!
ssha 23rd-Sep-2009 06:47 am (UTC)
Tsk. You should stop skimming. ;)

She said they would remove part of the flesh and use it as a plug (diaphragm).
arularia 16th-Sep-2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Like others have already said, natural vaginal pH is on the acidic side of things. Sperm don't like acidic things. That's why part of a woman's fertility cycle is the production of "fertile quality mucus" around the time of ovulation. The CM that gets produced around ovulation is much more alkaline and helps to protect the sperm and give them a means of traveling through the vaginal canal and up to the fallopian tubes where they can fertilize the egg.
archangelbeth 16th-Sep-2009 10:06 am (UTC)
Probably works on much the same principle as the contraceptive sponge (like the today sponge) -- not just that the vinegar would make it unhappy, but the sponge might tend to trap sperm in the matrix and work as a barrier as well (and according to my mom's Regency Romance readings, this technique was being used by ladies of negotiable virtue/kept mistresses around then, too).

I wonder if the Sponge got the idea from vinegar sponges...
ssha 23rd-Sep-2009 06:48 am (UTC)
I'm almost certain it did. It wouldn't suprise me to find out that some clever woman began marketing pre-done versions to prostitutes.
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