All kinds of weird and wonderful methods of birth control have been used throughout the centuries. Whilst some were more effective than others, and the mercury drank by ancient Chinese women would have made unwanted pregnancy the least of their problems, the development of a reliable, effective birth control pill is a very recent one.

It was the meeting of Margaret Sanger and Gregory Pincus in a New York dinner party in 1951 that began the discovery that would liberate generations of women. Between 1914 and 1921, activist Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York and set up the American Birth Control League, and when she met Pincus – an endocrinologist vilified for creating a test tube rabbit – she successful persuaded him to develop the birth control pill.

In that same year a young chemist in Mexico City by the name of Carl Djerassi developed a progesterone pill (oestrogen and progestin combined) from Mexican yams through synthesising hormones. With Djerassi not wishing to pursue the pill as a contraceptive, Pincus and gynecologist John Rock worked together to perfect the progesterone pill. Funded by a $40,000 grant from biologist and women’s rights activist Katherine McCormick, and with success after success trialling the drug, the pill was approved for contraceptive use in 1960.

3.5 million women aged 16 to 49 in the UK – and 100 million worldwide – take the contraceptive pill, which not only acts as birth control, but has been shown to protect against ovarian cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease. The pill allowed the free love of the swinging 60s and subsequent sexual release for millions of women.

But remember, a woman is four times more likely to contract an STI than to get pregnant, and the pill does not protect against STIs. If you are on the pill and have had more than one partner, then you should consider regular sexual health testing. Find your nearest Better2Know clinic and choose from our wider range STI tests.

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