Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size

Four Decades of the Birth Control Pill

WebMD Health News

May 8, 2000 -- It was in 1960, the cusp of the women's movement and the sexual revolution, when "the pill" was given formal blessing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On May 9, the birth control pill celebrates its 40th birthday. During those four decades, experts say, the pill has been a revolutionary force in the lives of many baby boomer women -- and now, their daughters. And its best years may still be ahead.

In 1962, Gloria Feldt was one of the first to try oral contraceptives; today, she is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"I'd had three children in a four-year period. I was 20 years old. The pill saved my life ... and my sanity," she says, laughing. "I took those pills instantly with very little question of their safety.

"The pill was the most socially significant medical advance of the century for women," Feldt tells WebMD. "I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that women's reproductive history has changed more since the advent of the pill than in all of previous history. ... When a woman cannot control her fertility, she has very little control over anything else in her life. .... At last, it was possible for women to control childbearing by taking a pill, safely and very effectively. "

Women were also maturing earlier than ever before, says Feldt. "Biologically, we are different than we were a century ago. The pill came along at exactly the right time. Because of the pill's effectiveness, it allowed women to have many choices in life." And many women accepted it immediately, she remembers. "By the time it had been on the market 10 years, there were already 10 million women taking it. It's continued at about that level ever since."

Still, women have not always completely trusted the pill. In the 1970s, as women began wondering about its long-term effects, many turned to intrauterine devices (IUDs). When problems developed with those, many returned to the easy-to-take, once-a-day contraceptive pill, despite their worries.

This all happened against a backdrop of profound social change. But did the birth-control pill bring about the sexual revolution? No, Feldt says. "To imply that the pill caused the revolution has the emphasis on the wrong syllable," she says. "Most human beings have sexual relationships, and most of the time they don't want to risk pregnancy every time they have sex."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
Concerned teenage girl
hospital gown
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
pregnancy test and calendar
contraceptive pills
Young couple looking at each other, serious
woman reading pregnancy test result