On the average, it is 'natural' for a women to experience 15 pregnancies over the course of a lifetime. This results in 10 deliveries, depending on health, living and hygiene conditions, including access to clean drinking water, nourishment, etc. In the past, 7 children out of 10 of these births survived. Yet then as now, this would be far too many babies for most people to handle, given economic, social as well as other factors.
For most cultures therefore, the limitation of births was and remains an important topic over the course of the generations.
100 years ago Sigmund Freud prophetically reflected upon this matter, remarking that it would be the greatest liberation for mankind were it to succeed in separating the sexual drive from reproduction.
Yet close to 100 years ago, different opinions held sway over the understanding of when a woman could conceive.
It was only in 1930 that Prof. Hermann Knaus of Graz (and simultaneously Prof. Kyusaku Ogino of Japan) established the cycle of a woman's days of fertility around ovulation. Their findings led to the development of modern contraceptive methods as well as artificial insemination. But also the rhythm method (counting days) rests on the principles established by Knaus and Ogino.
Up to this time, an unbelievable number and variety of ineffective if not painful contraceptive methods had been tried out. An overview of these approaches reveals the despair and at the same time the imagination behind attempts to control fertility throughout history.