Did you know that North American women drink a toxic concoction of alcohol and dried beaver testicles as a form of contraceptive?
And the ancient Egyptians took it even further – they applied crocodile dung and honey paste into the vagina before sex as a spermicide.
Long before modern contraceptives came about, ancient humans devised creative ways like these to outwit nature and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Luckily for us now, safe and proven methods of birth control – from injections, pills, to even an app – are readily available.
Even so, gynaecologists share that contraceptive myths and misconceptions still exist today, albeit a lot less bizarre than crocodile poo.
“There is a general ignorance and misconception about the use of contraceptives in Singapore,” says obstetrician and gynaecologist Christopher Ng, medical director of GynaeMD Women’s and Rejuvenation Clinic.
“For instance, the pill is underused here even though it is actually more effective (in preventing pregnancy) than condoms. Many women shy away from using oral contraceptives because they have misconceptions about how taking hormones is bad for them, or that it can lead to infertility later on,” he adds.
A multinational survey commissioned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer Schering Pharma has found that Singapore women are particularly confused about contraceptive options, compared to women in other regions.
More than half of the young Singaporean women – 60 per cent – surveyed admitted they were not very familiar with the various birth control options available.
About one in five and over a third also thought that sex during menstruation and the withdrawal method are effective forms of contraception, even though gynaecologists say these methods are actually highly unreliable.
And then there are some women who still believe that emptying the bladder and bathing after sex can prevent pregnancy – totally unscientific, unfortunately.
In Singapore, the male condom remains one of the most popular contraceptive options, experts say.
On the contrary, other forms of barrier methods such as the female condom, diaphragm and cervical cap lag far behind in popularity and effectiveness because “women tend to be uncomfortable about having to put them on”, says Dr Wee Horng Yen, obstetrician and gynaecologist at The O & G Care Clinic.
In spite of the popularity of the male condom, Dr Christopher Chong, obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist of Chris Chong Clinic, says many couples end up using them incorrectly.
This barrier method is up to 98 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, but the figure drops drastically when used incorrectly.
To be safe, there should be no direct contact between the penis and the vagina before the condom is worn. “This is because pre-ejaculation secretions may have even more sperm count than in the actual ejaculation itself,” explains Dr Chong.
He adds that it is also important to “squeeze the air pocket at the tip of the condom” before putting it on to prevent tearing.
“People think all they need to do is to put it on and that’s it, but a condom is only effective if it’s worn correctly,” says Dr Chong.
The doctors interviewed stress that there is no one-size-fits-all contraceptive method. “What suits you will depend on your age and lifestyle,” says Dr Ng.
In general, Dr Ng advises young couples who are not ready to expand their family to use birth control methods, such as a combination of condoms and the pill, which are short-term and easily reversible. Older couples who are done with family planning may want to consider longer-term contraceptives.
To help you along, we take a look at various contraceptive options available.