Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm so glad I don't live in medieval times

After remembering that I owe her a thank-you card for a birthday present, I started thinking about my maternal Grandmother (Grandma B) this afternoon. She and I started writing letters to each other on a regular basis about a year ago. When my paternal Grandmother and my maternal Grandfather died, I realized that I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask them that I never got to.

My Grandma B has told me a lot about her life in the past year, from the general details to her feelings at the times of some of the historical events that have taken place in her lifetime. She has lead a very interesting life. She recently wrote to me that her children are the most important thing in her life, which has got me thinking about my Grandmother and reproduction (er, not specifically, more generally: Women who were born in the 1920s and reproduction). My Grandmother was a practicing Catholic throughout her marriage to my Grandfather (and remains so today). She was pregnant nine times, had two miscarriages, and seven children. Because of her Catholicism and the number of times she was pregnant, I assume she practiced the rhythm method, but I was interested to find out what other methods of contraceptives were available during her lifetime.

Check this out for (as far as I can tell) a comprehensive look at the history of contraceptives, including information on how contraceptives have been used in the past in forced sterilization/forced population control efforts. (I would be remiss if I didn't mention the darkside of contraceptives' history.)

Here's some of the interesting stuff I ran into tonight while looking into the history of contraceptives. (All of the info comes from the above Planned Parenthood site, unless otherwise noted.)

The Condom - Using a new manufacturing process known as "dipping" (which as far as I can tell means dipping glass dildos into hot latex), the modern day latex condom was created in the 1920s. Before that they were rubber and had a large seam down the side (source).

The Diaphragm - Lemon halves may have been the modern diaphragm's medieval predecessor (source). In 1915 Margaret Sanger visited a Dutch Birth Control clinical and brought back with her their idea for a flexible diaphragm that was fitted by medical staff (source and also just a cool link about Sanger).

The Intrauterine Device (IUD) - IUDs have returned to the market and are considered safe, after a serious scare in the 1970s with the Dalkon Shield. (Speaking of the darkside of contraceptive history, the Dalkon Shield was dumped at a reduced price onto third world countries just before it was removed from the market in the U.S.)

Vasectomy -- In 1916 until 1940 (when the procedure for this purpose was discredited), a doctor began performing vasectomies to reduce the production of hormones that cause aging.

Birth Control Pills - In 1965, the Supreme court struck down a law banning prescribing, selling, and using contraceptives in Griswold v. Connecticut. The court held that there is right to privacy "created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees." (That whole right to privacy thing would come up again...)

Check out that main Planned Parenthood link above if you have time. There's a lot of really great info there.


Stopp Planned Parenthood of Connecticut said...

Why dont you present both sides and check out and Planned Parenthood is one sided and will only try to sell you chemical abortion birth control pills and devices (before implantation), medical abortions (two RU486 pills, after implantation) and surgical abortion after the pills fail not to mentiom the pill and the abortion breast cancer link.
In Christ Who Is the Author of Life,
Mary Anne
Stopp Planned Parenthood of Connecticut Representative

secondhandsally said...

Well, thanks for your comment. I disagree. I am pro-choice. I have decided to express my support of Planned Parenthood, specifically the Planned Parenthood of Connecticut by making a ten dollar donation to them each time you comment on my blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Jess said...

I, too, will donate $10 to Planned Parenthood of Connecticut each time Mary Anne or any other representative of Stopp Planned Parenthood of Connecticut comments on this Blog.

drh said...

Did you actually ask your grandmother what she used (or is that overstepping her boundaries?). That would be really interested to hear it first hand.

My grandma had my mom 11 years after her 2 child was born, and then my uncle 13 months after my mom. I asked her once (many years ago) if it was a shock having two kids so close together long after she thought she was done having children, and she told me (in a moment of ungrandma like frankness): "I told your grandpa that if he ever wanted to sleep with me again, he had to have something done!".

This points to the vasectomy, of course (this would have been in the late 1950s). She died though, and there were a lot questions I never got to ask her.