The evolution of birth control


Kiley Kocian

While the use of birth control is mainstream in 2021, its history is quite convoluted. Birth control was said to use animal intestines, poisonous chemicals and odd herbs, which lead to outright banning the contraceptive in general. It is important to keep in mind birth controls complex past to truly understand how the birth control we know today came to be.
The history of birth control dates back to 3000 BCE when animal and fish intestines were used as condoms in ancient Egypt. Then later, in ancient China, women were advised to drink a cocktail of lead and mercury to control fertility. This of course led to death more often than not. Around the same time in ancient Rome and Greece, a plant they called Silphium was being used to control fertility and according to ancient writing it actually worked. Although now we wouldn’t know, due to over harvesting, there is no known Silphium left.
Throughout history, the catholic church made many successful efforts to ban contraception. The most notable times being the Witch-Bull of 1484 and again in 1930. In recent years, Pope Francis has been more lenient on birth control. In 2016, he wrote “The Joy of Love”, a 256-page document where he insists we must not “throw stones” at people who do not follow the traditional way of life depicted in gospel.
The birth control pill we know today was invented in the 1950s by The Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Gregory Pincus and John Rock, is who assumed credit for the contraceptive, although it was not widely available until the mid-1960s. This was due to the supreme court case, Griswold v. Connecticut which lifted the ban on married couples, and eventually for unmarried couples in 1972. These changes led to many advances in birth control and family planning.
Due to its availability, new forms of birth control seem to pop up regularly. Some of these include intrauterine devices or IUDs, the birth control shot and the birth control ring. New and innovative types of birth control provide women with options better suit their lifestyle better. If you’re a very busy woman an IUD or birth control shot might be a better option for you, but if you can follow a schedule well and have time, the birth control pill is also a great option.
The availability of birth control also revealed an obvious problem. The cost of birth control is far too high for many American communities to afford causing the birth rate in these communities to skyrocket. Many insurance companies do not cover the cost of birth control leaving low and middle-class communities with few options. Add limited family planning facilities and insufficient sex education to the equation and you have a breeding ground for unplanned pregnancies.
The topic of family planning and sex education is a completely different conversation, but it’s one that needs to be had.
Since the creation of the birth control pill, research has shown that there are many benefits to taking birth control that go beyond just preventing pregnancy.

Many women have said their periods have become more regular and less painful. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 31 percent of women take the pill to relieve painful periods.
The birth control pill can also reduce your chance of getting ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society it is estimated that nearly 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2021, and nearly 14,000 of those women will die. In a 2013 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, it was found that women who take the birth control pill reduce their chance of getting ovarian cancer by 40 to 50 percent.
Birth control can also help reduce your risk of anemia. The Mayo Clinic says anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Some birth control can reduce or even stop your period all together, which can be a huge relief for women with heavy, painful periods.
It’s important to keep in mind that birth control isn’t for everyone. If you’re over the age of 35 and smoke there is an increased risk of blood clotting. Birth control can also cause a number of emotional problems. When choosing a form of birth control, it is important to talk to you OBGYN about what the best option is for you and tell them of any side effects.
Birth control has improved the lives of many women, but sadly it is still not accessible to every woman in the U.S. Considering that we have gone from using lead and mercury as birth control, to the dozens of safe options we have today is a true testament to how important this drug is. The amount of research that has gone into birth control and proving its benefits should be enough reason to make it available for all women.
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