A Look Back at 50 Years of Birth Control

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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.
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  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.
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About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.