The condom and the pill consistently rank at the top as the most commonly used types of contraception. The contraceptive pill was invented in 1960. Fifty years on, many new inventions have been added to the list of available contraception methods, but the pill remains the most popular form of female contraception.
Among the different types of contraceptives, the male condom is a strong contender to the title of most common contraception method. It is easy to use, affordable and offers the best protection against STIs (e.g. gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV).
Family planning has been recognised as a human right for 50 years this year. Yet safe and reliable forms of it are out of reach for hundreds of millions of people. In desperation, many resort to methods, most times based on myth and rumour, that are ineffective or downright dangerous, says the United Nations Population Fund, UNPF.
Here is a list of contraception methods from around the world that you shouldn’t try.
Health workers in Moldova, Syria and Uzbekistan say some women apply vinegar to the vagina, either before or after intercourse, to prevent pregnancy. Vinegar “causes an imbalance in the natural bacterial balance in the vagina, which increases vaginal infections,” said Dr. Yasser Joha, a gynaecologist in Damascus.
Soap and water
By douching with soap and water after sex, many “hope it will wash the sperm away, but sperm reaches the uterus before women have a chance to rinse it out,” said Dr. Su Sandy of Population Services International Myanmar. The practice can affect vaginal acidity, leading to irritation or infections.
Health workers in Eastern Europe and Central Asia say that, a few decades ago, some women would insert a piece of laundry soap into the vagina before intercourse, hoping the alkalinity would kill sperm. The method can cause inflammation, ulcers and other significant damage. It is also unreliable for preventing pregnancy.
These can cause chemical burns, skin irritation and, if introduced into the uterus, even sepsis and death. But they do not stop sperm: “No antiseptic introduced into the vagina will be able to dislodge them. The same applies to disease-causing organisms,” said Hemantha Senanayake, a medical professor in Sri Lanka.
Milk and iodine
In Kyrgyzstan, women have been known to drink milk and iodine after sex to prevent pregnancy. While mainly observed in the 1980s and 1990s, this method may still be used in remote areas. Iodine solution is toxic and can cause inflammation, burns to the oesophagus and stomach tissue, and hormonal imbalances. “There is no influence of the mixture on preventing the pregnancy at all,” said Chynara Kazakbaeva, president of Kyrgyz Alliance of Midwives.
In some places, your regular coke is believed to have contraceptive properties. Young people in Angola have been known to drink it with aspirin after intercourse. “I tried this a long time ago, when I was a teenager,” one older woman told UNFPA. The mixture was harsh on her stomach. “I had a very bad time,” she said. The beverage has also been used as a vaginal douche in North America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This method, too, is ineffective and can cause tissue damage and infections.