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April 8, 1939


JAMA. 1939;112(14):1311-1314. doi:10.1001/jama.1939.02800140009004

Medical literature records that contraceptive methods have been used since about 2000 B. C.,1 and evidence is at hand to the effect that even preliterate societies were familiar with such practices. The latter were confined chiefly to abortion and infanticide as a means of birth control, but magic rites were also performed by the medicine men. Primitive peoples also made tampons of roots, seaweed, rags or chopped grass and pills of tannic acid or opium, which they inserted as contraceptives; seed pods were used by them to serve as female condoms.

Among the earliest Egyptian records, notably in the Petri papyrus (1850 B. C.), prescriptions compounded as contraceptive aids contained "crocodile dung and ant paste, and honey." In the Ebers papyrus, prolonged lactation was encouraged for proper spacing, and the first reference to the use of a lint tampon for prevention of conception is to be found. A prescription