50 years contraceptive pill: a reason to celebrate?



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For 50 years: the success story of the birth control pill.

(20.08.2010) Many women have been swallowing the pill every day for 50 years. When it was invented in the 1960s, however, the success story was hardly predictable. Massive protests from a wide variety of social groups accompanied the introduction to the German market.

It was primarily not the preparation itself that was criticized, but the feared social upheaval. Until shortly before the pill was launched in the United States on August 18, 1960, the use of contraceptives was sometimes still prohibited and information about contraception or corresponding advertising was considered pornography. In addition, many men feared their supremacy in the family and the church representatives protested because of the moral decay they expected. Even the manufacturer "Searle" was not sure of the success and feared a slump in the sale of its other products due to the general rejection in society. However, young women in particular quickly recognized the benefits and already celebrated the birth control pill as a kind of sexual revolution, because for the first time it offered women the opportunity to protect themselves independently and safely from pregnancy. Just two years after its introduction, over 2 million American women swallowed the pill every day, in 1968 it was over six million and today an estimated 100 million women worldwide trust the birth control pill. In Germany, around 54 percent of women currently use birth control pills.

Side effects from taking hormones:
While the social consequences of the invention were discussed extremely critically from the start, the side effects of taking hormones daily have not really become the focus of the discourse to this day. For example, women with the world's first contraceptive pill ingested as high a dose of estrogen and progestin as is contained in an entire monthly pack today. “150 micrograms of a synthetic estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and four to eight times the gestagen concentration that seemed necessary to prevent ovulation were dosed much too high. At that time, the scientists just did not know the small amount of hormones that could be used to prevent pregnancy, ”says Thomas Rabe, the hormone expert and professor of gynecology at the University Women's Hospital in Heidelberg. For example, "Anovlar", which was approved as the first birth control pill on the German market in 1961, contained only half as many hormones as the US model "Enovid" and was still a hormone bomb in comparison to modern preparations.

As a result of the first hormonal contraception, side effects and side effects such as weight gain, nausea, migraines or depression were still very common. In addition, the high estrogen concentration also represented a significant risk for pulmonary embolism and the amount of progestogen often resulted in increased blood pressure (high blood pressure). Even though the dose of estrogen in the contraceptive pill has been significantly reduced to date, there are still numerous side effects such as: B. headache, nausea, fungal infections, breast tenderness, chest pain, mood swings and impairments of libido. In rare cases, young women have died of the effects of an embolism caused by the pill. And although the compatibility of the preparations has been continuously worked on, the list of side effects can be continued almost indefinitely and the package insert for most preparations is correspondingly long. However, this does not stop most women from swallowing small hormone hammer daily. Alternative synthetic contraceptives that have significantly less side effects, such as b. the spiral, do not begin to enjoy the same popularity.

After initial skepticism, the pharmaceutical industry has also discovered the market potential of the birth control pill, and around 20 manufacturers in Germany offer over 100 preparations. The German pill pioneer Schering (today Bayer) alone has 20 hormonal contraceptives on offer (including the world's best-selling birth control pill "Yasmin") and generates annual sales of almost three billion euros with them. In addition, the pill specialist Grünenthal and the international groups Pfizer, Novartis and MSD are among the big players in the pill business.

Alternative contraception:
However, there are also alternatives on a natural basis. The Mexican Wild Yam or Mexican wild yam played an important role in the invention of the contraceptive pill. Mexican Wild Yam has been used in the medicine of the Mexican indigenous people for generations not only for contraception. When western scientists became aware of the effect in the middle of the last century, their primary interest was to extract an active ingredient from the plant that can be marketed as a contraceptive. They found the hormone-like active ingredient diosgenin and used it to develop the first synthetic active ingredients, which were later used as birth control pills.

Unlike the synthetic preparations, Mexican Wild Yam does not cause any known side effects. In addition, the root helps in lower doses for complaints such as cramps for colic, inflammation and rheumatic pain. The Mexican yam is also sweaty, urinary and bilious and protects the liver. It has not yet been clarified whether only diosgenin builds up contraceptive protection, and when used as a contraceptive it is therefore recommended to eat the whole root. Approx. A woman has to consume 3,000 milligrams of the powdered root every day to build effective contraceptive protection. The special thing about the mode of action: Neither egg maturation nor ovulation or the natural menstrual cycle are impaired, manipulated or even prevented by Mexican Wild Yam. The American midwife Willa Shaffer came to this conclusion in 1986 in her book "Wild Yam: Birth Control Without Fear". "This is a contraceptive with no known side effects, which obviously has an incredibly high success rate," said the author. With the daily intake of 3,000 milligrams of Mexican Wild Yam powder (in capsules), an average contraceptive rate of 97% is achieved, explains the specialist, which means practically 100 percent contraception with regular intake, a natural lifestyle and stable health. (fp)

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