By TIME Video and Megan Gibson
January 23, 2015

Birth control may still be a hot button issue today in some countries, but men and women have been using contraceptives for thousands of years, albeit with varied results.

In ancient China, a popular remedy involved drinking a cocktail of lead and mercury. In ancient Egypt, a paste made out of honey, sodium carbonate, and crocodile dung was a popular form of contraception.

However, not all historic forms of contraception were based on superstition. A prototype of the cervical cap has been in use since the 18th century, and cave drawings in France appear to show a version of a condom.

For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries women in the U.S. had a hard time getting their hands on effective contraception. Due to anti-obscenity laws, doctors were not allowed to spread information about birth control.

To compensate for the lack of official methods, household products like Lysol and Coca-Cola were often used, as they were believed to kill sperm.

In 1960 modern birth control was born, when the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive pill for women. Within 5 years, millions of American women had prescriptions for the pill. Today, 99% of women of child-bearing age say they have used some form of birth control.

However, universal access to birth control still does not exist worldwide. Some 220 million women from developing countries say they want to use birth control but don’t have access.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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