The history of contraceptive pills

Birth control practices are not new in human civilization. Chronicles of Greece and Egypt showed that people had always been concerned about controlling fertility since earliest times.

The need of contraception gained momentum when serious complications mounted regarding maternal reproductive systems as a result of back-to-back gestations. People became frustrated of unwanted pregnancies and abundance of kids. Then, people started searching for options to prevent the recurrent pregnancies. Few most popular methods used by early humans are as follows.

Ancient contraceptives

  • The earliest contraceptive methods were mostly natural methods like coitus interruptus (withdrawal method). Due to lack of its effectiveness, barrier methods developed later.
  • Use of barrier methods started in 17th century, when Romans and Egyptians utilized animal bladders and intestines as condoms.
  • People also manipulated spermicides prepared from acacia, rock salt, honey, and animal dung for female’s use. 
  • Different ointments and natural substances were also utilized by women to dwindle sperms. Aristotle also proposed that olive oil and cedar oil can hinder the penetration of sperms, when applied on the womb opening. Other vaginal douches include sponges soaked in oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.
  • Some oral contraceptives have also been consumed such as Queen Anne’s lace seeds, pomegranate seeds, silphium, papaya and blue cohosh. Some toxic metals like mercury and lead have also been used as contraceptives, but they proved to be lethal.

Modern methods

  • With the advancement in research in 1920s, discovery of role of fertility timings and hormones proved to be a breakthrough in contraceptive methods and rhythm methods to control conception developed. These methods were established depending on the woman’s temperature variations that led to formulation of contraceptive pills.
  • Development of initial contraceptive pills started in 1956, when scientists succeeded to extract progesterone from roots of wild yams. The pill made from this synthetic female sexual hormone found potentially active in halting ovulation. Few years later, Frank Colton was an American chemist who made available first FDA approved birth control pill in 1960.

With the advent of modern science, we are fortunate of having numerous birth control options like IUDs, ring, patches, and hormone-specific oral pills, that we can easily implement according to our desires.