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Pill, The

In the 1960s, the scientific advances and upheavals in post-industrial society collided to create the sexual revolution.

From its roots in Britain and the US this rebellious wave swept around the world and greatly undermined the ability of governments or the church to dictate sexual behaviour.

Perhaps the single most important development to affect the lifestyle of young people was the arrival of oral contraception – The symbol of the new permissiveness and focus on sex for the sake of pleasure rather than making children.

The Pill, as it became known, was invented by Dr Gregory Pincus and approved by the US Food & Drug Administration in 1960.


But it wasn’t until Helen Brook, chair of a London family planning association, established the Brook clinics in 1964 that unmarried women in Britain began to have access to it.

By 1967 the Pill was freely available, and by the end of the decade about half of women in their early 20s in Britain were on the Pill.

An early version of the contraceptive pill was called Enovid-10. While effective, the product contained high levels of oestrogen that resulted in serious side effects.

It was withdrawn from the market in 1988, by which time, safer “low dose” pills were widely available.

The introduction of the pill (and to a lesser extent, intrauterine devices) brought with it a sea-change in the approach to sex in the modern world. Children became a choice instead of a consequence – as the steady or declining population growth rates in the industrialised countries confirmed.

The implications of virtually guaranteed child-free sex meant that nobody had to be forced into marriage and adulthood by unscheduled pregnancies.

But not all countries allowed this form of contraception, and in 1979 China introduced its “One Child Population Control Policy” in a bid to stem the growth rate of the world’s most populated country.

Under the policy, each Chinese couple is only allowed one child, all pregnancies must be authorized, and women who have met their “quota” have to have an IUD inserted.