A Look Back at 50 Years of Birth Control

Birth control pills are a very popular form of birth control and are currently used by almost 12 million women in the United States and more than 100 million women worldwide [1-2]. Typically referred to as “the pill”, oral contraception has an interesting history and has generated enormous social and cultural impact.

Subsequent to drug trials in the mid-1950’s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved birth control pills for contraceptive use in the U.S. in 1960. The first published case report of a blood clot and pulmonary embolism in a woman using birth control pills did not appear until November 1961 [3]. Between 1961 and 1963 there were 347 cases of thrombophlebitis (meaning vein inflammation related to a blood clot) in women using birth control pills for contraception that were reported to the manufacturer [4]. After almost 10 years of epidemiological studies, it was established that there is an increased risk of venous thrombosis (meaning a blood clot that forms in a vein) in oral contraceptive users and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack in oral contraceptive users who smoke or have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular risk factors.

Womens Health Zone recently posted an infographic surveying the changes that have resulted from the use of birth control pills. The infographic provides insight into statistics collected from PlannedParenthood.org on birth control over the last 50 years and is republished here on Highlight HEALTH below.

A look back at 50 years of birth controlCreative Commons License photo credit: Expedient InfoMedia


  1. Mosher et al. Use of contraception and use of family planning services in the United States: 1982-2002. Adv Data. 2004 Dec 10;(350):1-36.
    View Abstract
  2. Trussell, James (2007). “Contraceptive Efficacy”. in Hatcher, Robert A., et al.. Contraceptive Technology (19th rev. ed.). New York: Ardent Media.
  3. Jordan WM and Anand JK. Pulmonary embolism. Lancet. 1961 Nov 18;278(7212): 1146-7.
  4. Tyler ET. Oral contraception and venous thrombosis. JAMA. 1963 Jul 13;185(2):131-2.
    View Abstract

Cancer Research Blog Carnival #13 – Stand Up To Cancer

Welcome to the 13th edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival, the blog carnival devoted to cancer research.

There’s a revolution occurring on the Web: those “authoritative” articles written on traditional, static websites are being replaced with blogs, wikis and online social networks. In the sphere of health, medicine and information technology, this “real-time Web” consists of many who are professionals in the field; their posts are listed below.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.

Everyone knows that cancer is a devastating disease. What many people don’t know is that cancer kills more than 1,500 people a day; that’s one person every minute. Tonight, Stand Up To Cancer, a one-hour fundraising event, will be simulcast on all three major U.S. networks. The goal of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) is to enable cutting-edge research aimed at finding a cure to all types of cancer and making cancer part of the national debate.

Since 2001, federal deficits resulting from a number of fiscal pressures, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, increased national defense spending and hurricane Katrina, have together placed significant stress on the resources available for U.S. biomedical research. Between the fiscal years 2004 and 2007, the National Cancer Institute’s budget remained relatively flat. However, factoring in inflation (i.e. a Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI) of ~3.8% per year) reveals a 12% loss of purchasing power [1].

This decrease in resources comes as patient demand is growing. There was an estimated 1.5 million new cancer cases in 2007, an increase of 14% since 2001 [2]. The U.S. spends roughly $12 billion dollars every month fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s 33 times more than what is spent on cancer research annually. Imagine what we could do if just a fraction of those resources was dedicated to cancer research.