speculation about birth control in science fiction and fantasy

What methods of birth control have you seen in science fiction and fantasy? If you are an author what methods of birth control are used in your fictional world. Abstinence counts as birth control. If you’ve got a kick-butt female mercenary how does she keep pregnancy from slowing her down?


In my story, there is no birth control - in fact, they’re trying to build up the population.

The pregnancy of my MC is frustrating, but it doesn’t slow her down. In fact, she still manages to save her people!

In your world how often do women typically get pregnant? What do they do to keep women from dying in childbirth?
It seems to me if the goal is to increase the population, you’d still want to use birth control. If a woman is likely to die in childbirth or if the child isn’t likely to survive, it might be better to delay pregnancy until a time when both have better chance of living. If a woman has 10 children and only 2 survive the population is probably going to drop. Better to have 3 pregnancies with all 3 children surviving.

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What do they do to increase the chance of pregnancy. I suppose attempting to increase the number of births is also a type of birth control.

I’ve seen some interesting stuff. Magic runes painted onto the skin, herbal concoctions and potions, shots of certain kinds of serums (much like hormone shots but more sci-fi or magical).

My main race doesn’t use contraception because they’re only fertile during 3 months of the year. If they don’t want to get pregnant, they just don’t have sex during those 3 months. My MC very much wants to get pregnant. She’s pretty BA, but she’ll take a break from doing more intense warrior stuff after she finds out (meaning the later stages of her pregnancies aren’t really going to be shown in the books because I don’t want to write about her just chilling haha).

I’ve read a futuristic story where the birth control was in the very food you ate, and the only way to conceive was the “society” selected the eggs and sperm of certain individuals and they were all raised and birthed from a giant test tube. Fantasy genre: there was this tale of Familiar/cat people, where the males could only get the female pregnant when he was in heat or something, and even then, it was the souls that formed a ball of light on the lady’s womb, and she either accepted the new life, or not.

So abstinence works nicely. It seems they may have the opposite problem of difficulty getting pregnant.
How long is gestation for this race?

How does society decide which individuals should produce those eggs and sperm?
That might be interesting. Did the story get into that aspect of the system?

A long time ago, there was a plant called Silphium. It was highly prized by the Greek and Roman civilizations, and known through most of the ancient world around the Mediterranean Sea. Its berries, if one or two were eaten, functioned as birth control pills. If four or five were eaten, it reputedly also functioned as an aphrodisiac, which … well, I guess if you’re going to have an aphrodisiac around, having one that has a built-in protection against getting knocked up simplifies a few things.

As best we can tell from accounts written at the time,doctors found a lot of other uses for it - they prescribed it (leaves and stalks) for sore throat, excessive coughing, fever, and indigestion.

Of course it’s extinct now. Apparently driven to extinction by over-harvesting.

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They do. Infertility is a pretty big burden that the MC and her partner deal with over the series. And they only carry for six months instead of nine.

My tales rarely focus on sub plots or themes where this issue (and I recognize it as one) comes into play. Especially in writing short stories that of course must maintain a very tight plot and focus. I assume though, that as several types of control are already here, that advances in delivery, and execution of control will continue to develop going forward. I had myself cut, for instance, so it is not all about what the female does. I would think it would develop along the lines of longer periods between doses, if chemical, or surgical advances. perhaps an inject-able that needed renewing only every six months, so on. I tend to think genetic manipulations and such won’t be a path, as less invasive advances tend to be the more likely and accepted.

I checked in on Wikipedia. Apparently it’s not clear what plant was being described which makes it difficult to determine if it went extinct or not. The article said that it might have been a hybrid. Hmm if we know what plant it’s similar to maybe that other plant could be bred to produce the medicine.

I seem to recall that it always had to be harvested wild. Nobody could figure out how to cultivate it. Which makes the over-harvesting thing a little more understandable, but still a great loss.

They picked evolution type things, like who was the best athlete, who had the highest IQ and so forth. Anything that they believed could further the human race.

Did they have some type of IQ test?
What characteristic did they prefer?
I think that if the goal is survival of the human race it’s best to pick those who will be the best at being good parents. Athleticism is great same for intelligence but if it doesn’t translate to survival of children, it’s not going to further the survival of humans.

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Maybe we could get lucky and an archaeologist will discover some viable seeds.

Hoooboy. Eugenics! The controversial proposal that we can or should deliberately breed “better” people.

This concept is “obvious” in some ways, but it has also been at the leading edge of almost every white-supremacist group, featured heavily in the ideology of Nazi Germany, was used to justify forced sterilizations of all sorts of people at hospitals and sanitariums around the world…including a bunch of people there was actually nothing wrong with.

Some phrenologist didn’t like the bumps on their heads or some nazi thought their earlobes were unsightly and didn’t belong in the genetic heritage of a new, better race, and people got sterilized, or sent to a work camp from which people didn’t return, or somethingorother.

It’s gotten so if you even say the word “eugenics” people start looking around for the Klan hoods or the Swastikas or the pseudoscience, and assume you have some vicious “final solution” for dealing with those who are “impure” according to some ridiculously arbitrary standard.

For a fantasy story, you can just arbitrarily say that it never went extinct.

For a science fiction story, you can suppose that it (or something with similar properties) has been re-created via genetic engineering. Honestly I don’t think it would take much. Silphium’s family and relatives are known, and a lot of those relatives have a few of the qualities attributed to it in some form. It’s entirely plausible that, with modern knowledge about how to cultivate that type of plant, somebody with just a little more knowledge about the genetic code than we have now could identify relevant sections of those genomes and recombine “appropriate” things and, after a due amount of experimentation, come up with a near-match.

Then again, we have a number of plants that function as abortaficients - mistletoe for example. If we were to seek ways to “tweak” those plants so that they could work more reliably and without inducing nausea as a side effect, they could serve at least in the needs of birth control.

The community is very primate - no technology apart from the stuff on the space ship (or the parts when they dismantle it) they came to this planet on. Women begin trying to get pregnant at around 18 - 20 years old. There’s really nothing to prevent the deaths of women or babies, but that changes around the end of the story (there is a native population which much more knowledge in natural herbs, very basic magic).

I agree with you personally, but from what I recall, the MC never remembered her parents as she never met them. Most of the folks in her society were raised by robots or something. She herself came from the genes of assassins. She had her fighting skills. Not really sure how they managed to go around that, seeing how it is a scientific fact that babies need to be held. But they did also have robot technology down to an artform, where it was impossible to tell from the human eye alone what was human and what was robotic. She herself had a robot lover, that she was content just to hug. Too many people. She just wasn’t in a procreating mood.