CONDOMS made of rubber were mass-produced beginning in the 19th century. Today, “rubbers” typically are made of latex, although alternatives are available for people who are allergic. And “lambskin” condoms —actually made from sheep intestines — are still available.
The female condom, also called the internal condom, became available in the U.S. in 1994. These are soft plastic pouches that are inserted into the vagina before sex to block sperm.
BARRIER METHODS became more sophisticated, more effective and less messy. In the 1830s, a German gynecologist created custom-made rubber pessaries, devices that were were inserted into the vagina to block sperm from reaching the uterus.
The modern version is the diaphragm, a shallow, silicone cup that covers the cervix. Cervical caps are smaller and with a different shape. An earlier form of diaphragm was the primary contraceptive provided at Planned Parenthood clinics beginning in 1916.
A sophisticated version of an old method, the Today sponge became very popular when it entered the American market in 1983. Instead being soaked in alcohol, oil or vinegar, the modern sponge contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9.
Diaphragms and cervical caps are also paired with spermicides. Contraceptive foams, jellies, creams and films are the updated version of honey, animal dung and other substances believed to kill or immobilize sperm.
While diaphragms, cervical caps and sponges are still available on the market, they’re fallen out of favor compared to hormonal methods that don’t need to be inserted before sex.