On this day in 1960, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the world’s first commercially produced combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), colloquially known as “the pill.” Enovid-10, originally made by the G.D. Searle Company of Chicago, Illinois, and its progeny were not available to married women in all states until the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and were not available to unmarried women in all states until Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972.
Although the principle of hormonal contraception was understood in the 1920’s, it took another 30 years for American social reformer Margaret Sanger and American biologist and philanthropist Katharine McCormick to persuade reluctant scientists and physicians to create preparations of oral contraceptives. The first clinical report of the use of such preparations to suppress ovulation was published in 1956 by American endocrinologist Gregory Pincus and American gynecologist and researcher John Rock.
Social scientists cite the pill as the prime catalyst for the sexual revolution, a real and symbolic driver of the women’s movement, and a critical tool in population control. In a CDC study for the period of 2015-17, 64.9%, or 46.9 million of the 72.2 million women aged 15–49 in the United States, were currently using a method of contraception. The most common contraceptive methods currently used in the overall age range 15–49 were female sterilization (18.6%), pill (12.6%), LARCs (10.3%), and the male condom (8.7%) Use varies widely by country, age, education, and marital status. For instance, one third of women aged 16–49 in the United Kingdom currently use either the combined pill or progestogen-only pill, compared with only 3% of women in Japan.
Two forms of combined oral contraceptives are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. In the big picture, world population increased from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.7 billion today, yet the growth rate has slowed markedly from 2.2% per year 50 years ago to 1.05% per year.