Despite the major recent advances that have been made in the area of oral contraceptives, there are cruder forms that have been used for thousands of years and are even mentioned in the famous Ebers Papyrus as the “recipes that are made for women.” The recipes specify amounts of substances to be used to prevent pregnancy or disrupt a pregnancy that has already begun (Riddle, 1997). In the early 1900s, a man by the name of Ludwig Haberlandt was intrigued by the fact that women do not get pregnant a second time while they are pregnant. This same question led a group of men, headed by the American chemist Russell Marker, to search for a synthetic way to produce progesterone. They found a way to do so but, they had no way to produce large amounts of the substance. While working for the company, Syntex, in Mexico, they encountered the very substance they needed growing naturally in the roots of the wild Mexican yam (Djerassi, 1992). Meanwhile, a group of men in the United States, working under Dr. Gregory Pincus and using money from the Planned Parenthood Research Fund, began the search for a combination of hormones that would work as an oral contraceptive. In the beginning, they thought that pure progestin would produce the best effects. They found, however, that progestin tainted with estrogen gave the best effects and were soon working on a pill with this mixture in it (Kistner, 1969). The Federal Drug Administration had some misgivings about the oral contraceptives early on and voiced its’ concerns on possible carcinogenic effects (http://www.fda.gov). Despite the concerns the FDA expressed, it approved the pill in 1960 and it was first marketed as Enovid (Kistner, 1969). These earlier fears would later come back to haunt the nation when the first side effects of oral contraceptives were felt and studies were done to provide confirmation to the reality of what was happening. There were many ups and downs, true studies and false accusations with the breakthrough of oral contraceptives but, they have outlasted it all and, even more, prospered. There are now over 30 brands of contraceptives available on the market in the United States (http//:www.womenintheknow.com). One author states that “the multiplicity of brands has important advantages to both the physician and the patient” as the pill with the right dose of hormones in them can be prescribed to different women (Kistner, 1969). Oral contraceptives are even now being improved for the better comfort of those women who use them as a form of birth control.
There is an unending fount of information to be found on oral contraceptives everywhere you look – in the news, in magazines, in research journals, in books, and on the internet. Although not as controversial as in times past, there is still plenty of fear, misunderstanding, and false alarms in regards to oral contraceptives. Some of these fears seem based on truth as we here reports from the Federal Drug