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X. L. Gold Pessary, size medium

3/4 Inch Disk

Gold pessary, the precursor to the modern coil, from the start of the 20th century. A solid disk made of gold has a small gold rod in its centre, approximately 60mm long, that forks into a “Y”-shape. The ends finish up in thickened parts, shaped like teardrops. (There is no denying a certain resemblance to a golden cufflink.) The box is only partially preserved. Beige, with a gold and black adhesive label.

The idea behind this “stem pessary” was on the one hand to prevent implantation of the egg in the uterus, thanks to the inserted stem, and on the other hand to seal the cervix against sperm travelling up, thanks to the closely fitted overlying stud. The concept proved to be erroneous in two respects: firstly, sperm find their way past such inadequate blockades, and secondly, the stem inserted into the uterus caused irritation and inflammation, even perforations.

What is exciting is the technical question: how were the forked stem pessaries fitted? We found the genius and unbelievably simple answer to this in the brochure ‘Taking Precautions: The Story of Contraception’ by Megan Hicks and Linda Adair (1995). A drop of wax glued the two divergent ends of the stem together, making insertion easily achievable. The body’s warmth then melted the wax, and the two ‘arms’ came apart, preventing the pessary from slipping out.

 

Inventory number: 1977
Material: gold
Dimensions, in cm: 6 x 2
Condition: good
Manufactor: Carstens MFG.CO Chicago, Ill.