The Pill is introduced
The 4th of December 1961 AD
In terms of social change, December 4 1961 was one of the most significant dates in twentieth century British history. This was the date the birth control pill was introduced here - though this was still the MacMillan era, so the pill was only given to married women until 1967.
The pill had been tested in Haiti and Puerto Rico in the 1950s. The pioneering US scientist Gregory Pincus was the driving force behind the breakthrough, his early versions of the pill using synthetically produced oestrogen and progestagen, hormones that suppress ovulation.
Before the pill less reliable - and romantic - forms of contraception had been relied on: condoms which were somewhat sturdy; the cap; simple but not truly effective early withdrawal.
The pill meant that women could control their fertility, and thus plan (or just have) careers, a huge economic advance. When the pill became officially available to unmarried women in 1967 - there had been ways around this limitation of course - the reduced risk of pregnancy meant greater sexual freedom, and more unmarried couples setting up home together, changing the accepted social pattern of centuries.
Some have regarded the introduction as negative, linking it with, for example, increases in sexually transmitted diseases.
Medically the pill raised questions, some of which still obtain: on the downside some evidence of blood-clotting was discovered, and there have been fears of increased chances of having heart attacks and suffering from breast cancer; on the upside, ovarian cancer may be less likely for those taking the pill, as may be pelvic inflammatory disease - obviously matters to be discussed with a medical professional. But newer generations of the pill are based on work taking the risks, actual or potential, into account.
One regular problem remains with some users: that of forgetting to take it. But most of the 3.5 million British women using the pill today regard it as a boon.
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