A number of methods are currently employed.
According to a 1997 study withdrawal was the most common method of birth control and accounted for almost 30% of women of fertile age and in a sexual relationship. This rose to 38% for women aged between 20 - 24 years old.
The pill is widely used both to prevent pregnancy and to regulate periods. GPs will regularly prescribe the pill, usually after an examination; it is available only from a pharmacy after a medical examination and ranges in price for a box is 5 to 15 euro (being free for people with low income).
Condoms are widely available from pharmacies to vending machines to supermarkets.
The morning-after pill is available only by prescription.
- See the main article, Abortion.
Abortion has been legal since 1978 although it has been practiced in one form or another for many years. Methods include using the RU486 pill used extensively in Europe. In 2008 the parliament passed a resolution condeming the use of abortion as birth control.
The Catholic Church still condemns birth control and some doctors are still prescribing the "natural method" instead of condoms or the pill. A 1974 report from the church recommended pharmacists to stop selling birth control products but this was widely ignored.
In the past women used herbs and magic spells to prevent pregnancy. There are references to plugging the vagina with various potions and mixes of such substances as honey to prevent pregnancy. Also the idea of putting olive oil in the vagina, the idea being the oil would hinder or better still prevent the movement of sperm. (In 1938 a report showed how effective this method was.)
In Roman times, the physicians Dioscorides and Galen listed around a dozen plants that acted as oral contraceptives. These included asfetida, juniper, pennyroyal, "squriting cucumber" , and wild carrot. The effectiveness of these herbal potions has been confirmed by medical research within the last thirty years.
By the Renaissance coitus interruptus and makeshift condoms (made from pigs' intestines) were commonplace. There were thought to be sexual positions which could increase the chances of pregnancy as well as positions which would decrease the chance.
The condom has been around for many years although in the past its use was generally regarded as a barrier to preventing sexually transmitted disease rather than pregnancy. Casanova, however, is reported to have used one in the 18th century to avoid getting his mistresses pregnant; they were not commonly available however until around the time of the First World War.
Following the First World War contraception was felt to be somewhat "unpatriotic" and discouraged in order to boost the birth rate.
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