History of the Birth Control Pill

Margaret Sanger and Oral Contraceptives

Margaret Sanger, a women’s rights activist, envisioned a contraceptive pill option for women decades before any research began. In 1951, she was able to procure a grant from Planned Parenthood to begin the hormone research that eventually led to the development of the first FDA approved birth control pill.

Doctors were not allowed to dispense prescriptions for oral contraceptives until 1960.
Doctors were not allowed to dispense prescriptions for oral contraceptives until 1960. | Source

Development of the Birth Control Pill

The first FDA approved birth control pill, called Enovid, was developed and tested with the help of Dr. John Rock and Gregory Pincus. According to PBS.com, the FDA approved the birth control pill as a treatment for menstrual disorders and required that the label warn women that the drug would inhibit ovulation. The initial pharmaceutical formulation of the birth control pill contained high levels of hormones which increased the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Final Approval of Oral Contraceptives

Several states, including Massachusetts, had anti-birth control laws in place in the 1950’s which made it difficult to conduct human clinical trials in the US and delayed FDA approval of the birth control pill. On May 11, 1960, the FDA granted approval for the G.D. Searle pharmaceutical company to sell and market Enovid as a contraceptive option that prevented pregnancy.

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