In a post-industrial collapse scenario, what would be the most effective methods for contraception? Situation is a small scale civilisation with limited access to industrial materials and tooling but have solid understanding of science and anatomy.
Let's go through the state of the art contraceptives:
- Condoms: to have latex you need access to tropical region where the suitable plant grows. Not an easy task for a post apocalyptic scenario. Same holds for polyurethane based condoms: getting the chemicals and the plants to run production is highly unlikely. Mind that in the past condoms were made using silk or animal guts, but they were obviously way less effective.
- Pills: again, running a chemical plant is highly unlikely in a post apocalyptic scenario.
- Diaphragms, spirals: getting the raw material and the processing plants is again the main issue.
- Surgical: stitching to aseptic standards and lack of painkillers/narcotics can be the limiting issue, together with the non reversibility.
- Natural method (abstinence during fertile days): this can be enforced by religious taboos, and it is probably going to be the most effective.
Bottom line: in a post apocalyptic scenario what you lack in technology you can partially cover with numbers (if you have no Caterpillar to move a hill, you can have 100 humans do the job). why would you even aim for birth control?
The hormones which maintain breast milk production suppress ovulation; this is lactation induced amenorrhea. The article says don't count on it past 6 months but people routinely do, or try. It is not like a switch flips at 6 months and it stops working. An adjunct or extension of this would be maintaining the period of lactation by shared nursing.
A woman can nurse other babies (or even animals!) after her own is weaned. It is not something given much thought in these days of baby formula but "wet nurses" were vital in the very recent past. If the mother died in childbirth, without a wet nurse you would lose the baby too. There are potentially big societal benefits to this practice especially in a resource poor society. One mother may not herself have the bodily nutritional resources to provide adequate milk, but one mother and several wet nurses would: the burden of feeding the child is spread over many individuals. Diarrhea (usually bacterial dysentery) from dirty water is a major cause of infant mortality even today; there are not bacterial pathogens in breast milk. Additionally there are (I think still theoretical) benefits of immunologically active molecules in breast milk - the pooled immune system of several nurses would be better than that of just the mother.
Benefits of the prolonged lactation system for an author is that one need not get into issues like anal sex or mutual masturbation; I feel like that sort of pushes the fiction into a niche. Having all the ladies nursing all the time is different enough but not over the edge into freaky or prurient.
In a post-apocalyptic society, birth control will probably not be desired by most people, because you need a lot of young people for labor. But there might still be some groups who want it: Women who currently don't have a stable family situation, or who have a job where having a child would be very inconvenient; people who are very fertile and feel that they have enough children after a while, and a variety of other groups.
Let's go through some options:
Hormonal methods are probably impossible. Depending on how crafty your society is, they may be able to work something out by extracting hormone-like substances from plants and animals, but that may strike readers as unrealistic.
Surgical methods — IUDs are probably not worth the infection risk, and female sterilisation is a major surgery that probably won't be available in your society. But male sterilisation in the form of vasectomies might be, because it's a relatively small and harmless procedure along the lines of pulling a tooth. This would almost certainly be irreversible, since it's barely considered reversible with modern medicine.
Barrier methods have been used throughout history, and will probably continue to be used. There will be no rubber or polyurethane, so you'll be back to intestines and other natural materials. These work tolerably well, but don't seem to pose much of a barrier to viruses, so unlike modern condoms they won't protect against STDs. Spermicides might be used, there have been various recipes in history, but they might also cause irritation or infection, and will probably be less effective than modern versions, which already aren't that effective.
Natural family planning (rhythm method) may play a role, but it requires a lot of discipline and measurements to be effective, in a post-apocalyptic society that may not be practical. If food is scarce, many women won't have a regular cycle, so the whole concept will be hard to apply.
Abortion and infanticide: A lot of societies know about herbs that are likely to cause abortions. These are essentially poisons and much more dangerous for the woman than modern abortions. However, many societies have historically limited their number of children primarily by medical abortions. If they didn't know any reasonably safe abortifacients, societies often resorted to killing or exposing unwanted children after they were born.
So, my best guess is that young unmarried people would either use barrier methods or abstain from intercourse (sticking to other forms of sexual contact). Married people may use rhythm methods to space births, but won't be able to completely avoid pregnancies that way (nor will most of them want to). Older men who feel they have enough children in their family may choose a vasectomy.
There would be few options.
Throughout history, animal intestines have been used as a barrier method. Pulling out is a viable, albeit not very secure, method. Cycle charting/ natural family planning could also work if a woman is regular, healthy, and ovulates normally (in the middle of a 28 day cycle). Natural family planning is fairly effective if all of these conditions are met (but far, far less effective than any hormonal method which would not be possible here).
These are the historic methods of birth control I can remember:
- Primitive IUDs: sponges and dried pieces of moss introduced in the vagina. Immediate cleanings with substances like vinegar after intercourse.
- Condoms made of linen/wool: basically, like a thin sock around the penis.
- Pull-out method.
- Oral and anal sex, mutual masturbation.
- Herbal potions, like ones with ruta (they were probably mild poisonings).
However, I think in a collapse scenario they would use the same method as the Middle Ages: a bad diet and hard work made girls' menstruation happen later, less abundant and in an irregular form. And mothers breastfed the babies which acts as a natural contraceptive, too.
The most effective method would be to not have vaginal sex at all.
There are enough other forms of sex to keep people satisfied. And with people i mean men. Those who want to penetrate something. (i hope i don't sound childish, but for me as a man, that's how i feel.)
The next effective method would be a reusable-condom. something made of bicycle-tire-rubber or plastic bags which you will find anywhere. Or just those which are beeing sold. (something to look out for on your next raid...)
The next i would consider a copper coil (cooper IUD) which seems easy enough to manifacture, but like already stated in a comment, it needs training, know-how or trial-by-error. it all depends in what mood those post-apocalyptic citizens are and how much they lost already from the life before (see my personal note).
I wouldn't consider anal-sex a safe-form with the absence of antibiotica or other hygienic products (condoms, enema) to do it in a safe manner.
If i were to live in such a situation (ofc it depends if you're born into or know how life was before) i would probably resign pretty fast and just "pull-out" and don't give a damn.
Copper IUDs. Modern copper intrauterine devices are a mix of plastic and copper (IUD on Wikipedia). However, if they have no access to plastics, your people could use just the copper. (Or silver or gold).
People have been using IUDs for millennia (e.g. history of IUD). Since your people understand science, they'll know to sterilize the IUD properly before insertion, avoiding the risks of infection which the Romans and Ancient Greek women suffered from.
Primitive Female Condoms : blocking sperm from entering the cervix/uterus by inserting a foreign object into the vagina
Herbal and plant based contraceptives and abortifactents These have been used for thousands of years. For instance, wild carrot seeds are known to have effects similar to birth control pills. And black cohosh has abortifactent properties.
Natural spermicides such as copper or lemon juice
Withdrawal : self explanatory
Leaving newborns to die in a place where they won't be found.
This was one of the "contraception" methods of choice after the fall of Rome, our world's one real-world post-apocalyptic scenario. Archeologists are still finding mounds of baby skeletons under old aqueducts to this day.
There is an early birth control method from Ancient Egypt using honey, acacia leaves, and lint to create a cervical cap to prevent sperm from entering the womb. Some people in the post apocalypse could use lint/cloth, a sticky glue, and leaves to create a similar kind of birth control. It can be made more effective using acacia gum or some other substances that ferments into lactic acid, which makes an effective spermicide.
I'm not sure I understand the point of this question.
If there has been an apocalypse, why on Earth would you need contraception?
Surely any apocalyptic event would wipe out most life on Earth (if not all)? So wouldn't the purpose of contraception be a moot one?
In any case, assuming small pockets of humanity actually could survive the aftermath of an apocalypse (disease, famine, drought, plus many others depending on the cause), goal one would be to rebuild civilisation. That would mean children with as many varied females as possible to increase genetic diversity and avoid the complete annihilation of humanity... though in reality, we won't make it when it happens.