Story: Contraception and sterilisation

Sea sponge

Sea sponge

Sea sponges soaked in vinegar (and other spermicides) were used by some women as barrier contraceptives in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The sponges were inserted to block and absorb semen. However, this traditional method of contraception was not very effective, as the barrier was permeable.The rubber cervical caps are probably from the 1940s. These gave women some influence over their fertility, but were far from reliable.

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Family Planning, Dame Margaret Sparrow Collection
Photograph by Rachel Leatham

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How to cite this page:

Jane Tolerton, 'Contraception and sterilisation - 19th-century contraception', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 August 2022)

Story by Jane Tolerton, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 7 Dec 2018