Birth control pills

It's easy to take contraception methods for granted, but it wasn't too long ago that these common-day forms of birth control marked a huge milestone for women everywhere.

First forms of
birth control

From the first form of women's birth control to the first birth control clinic in the United States, uncover the history of women's contraceptives.

First forms of birth control

Noted as early as 1550 B.C., evidence of a dates, acacia and honey paste smeared on wool and inserted into the vagina could be marked as the first form of the sponge and spermicides. But, it wouldn't be until the 1700s that experiments in contraceptives really began with sheep-bladder condoms and cervical caps fashioned from half of a lemon.

Boom of the contraception industry


By 1839 vulcanized rubber condoms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), douching syringes, vaginal sponges, diaphragms and cervical caps flooded the market. But, the birth control industry would soon be thrown for a loop when the laws changed.

Birth control declared illegal

The Comstock Law of 1873 declared contraceptives illegal, but, it didn't put a stop to these pregnancy-preventing forms of birth control. Due to limited laws about fraudulent advertising claims, by simply marketing them as "hygiene" products the contraceptive industry rolled on.

First birth control clinic

In October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first contraceptives clinic on American soil in Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City. However, due to the Comstock Laws, the clinic was forcibly shut down in the same month.

Combination contraception key

During the 1920s, couples were combining the use of condoms, the rhythm method, male withdrawal, diaphragms and/or intrauterine devices to successfully drop the U.S. birth rate by half.

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Beginnings of Planned Parenthood

In 1921, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, the organization that would eventually become Planned Parenthood.

Invention of intrauterine devices (IUDs)


The first intrauterine device was made of silkworm gut and was not widely used. However, Dr. Ernst Grafenberg introduced the intrauterine ring in 1928, later to be pulled from the market due to product liability claims. By the 1950s, Dr. Jack Lippes transformed this form of birth control by introducing plastic IUDs with nylon string, dubbed Lippes Loop IUD, and IUDs boomed in popularity.

Mis-marketed Lysol douche

Lysol douche

From 1930 to 1960, Lysol was advertised as a feminine hygiene product backed by non-existent European doctors until investigated by the American Medical Association.

Federal ban on birth control lifted

In 1938, a judge tosses the federal obscenity ban on birth control, which did little for the majority of the nation as most states kept contraception illegal.

Dawn of the birth control pill

The year 1951 brought about the creation of the first birth control pill. Gregory Pincus dives into research on the use of hormones in birth control, while Carl Djerassi creates a progesterone pill in the same year. The FDA approved Envoid as a birth control pill in 1960, however nearly half a million women in America were already taking it under the claim of therapeutic purposes.

Contraception prohibition banished

The landmark case of Griswold vs. Connecticut marked the end of all state laws prohibiting birth control for married couples in 1965. However, by this point, more than 6 million women are already taking the pill as a form of birth control.

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Birth control choices

Low-dose birth control pills hit the market

Prompted by concerns about the safety and side effects of the birth control pill and the accompanying Senate hearings about this form of contraception, a lower-dose pill joined the women's contraceptives market in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as birth control implants, the Today sponge, birth control injectables, the hormonal patch and vaginal ring.

Accessible emergency contraception emerges

In the early 1990s, the "morning after" pills caused quite a stir. But thanks to public awareness campaigns, emergency contraception became more widely available by 1992.

Female condoms

Female condom

While the traditional male condom is still king, in the 2000s, the new millennium brought about a new form of birth control, called the female condom.

While the history of women's contraceptives dates back centuries, forms of birth control have come a long way, baby. But, regardless of how much you know about the history of contraceptives, consult your doctor before choosing which birth control method is right for you.

Female condom image credit: Ceridwen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr], via Wikimedia Commons

More about birth control

The latest contraceptive choices
Pregnant while on birth control: risks to pregnancy and odds of conceiving
Tubal ligation vs. vasectomy


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