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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The essential contraceptive

5:31 PM


For centuries, women tried all sorts of methods in order to determine the number of children they wanted to conceive or even control the spacing between births. But many of these methods were hit-and-miss affairs; the only way to ensure that they did not get pregnant was to refrain from sexual intercourse.


But the introduction in the 1960s of modern oral contraceptives, which were made of new, safer compounds, helped change all that: women finally had access to a birth control pills that were both effective and reliable. In conjunction with International Women's Day this month, we look at a brief history of the pill and how it's come a long way to changing the lives of women around the world.

* 4,000 years ago
The ancient Egyptians had their own contraceptive medicine: they ground up pomegranate seeds and, with the help of wax, formed small cones. The fruit contains a natural oestrogen, and it is possible that the Egyptian mixture, like the modern pill, prevented ovulation.

* 1550 BC
What is probably the first prescription for a contraceptive is written on papyrus. Historians presume that the substance was crocodile dung, which the woman was to put into her vagina before sexual intercourse.

* The Middle Ages
People use condoms made from animal gut or fish skin, sometimes even from linen. These are, however, not effective methods of contraception; unwanted pregnancies are common.

* 1919
In animal experiments, physiologist Ludwig Haberlandt from Innsbruck (1885 - 1932) discovers the principle of the pill. He proves that transplanting the ovaries of pregnant rabbits into non-pregnant animals inhibits ovulation.

* 1928
Pharmaceutical company Schering introduces the first hormonal drug into the market.

* 1938
Schering employees Hans Inhoffen and Walter Hohlweg make history: In the main laboratory they develop ethinylestradiol, the first oral active oestrogen worldwide. This substance remains an integral content of every classic oral contraceptive. The scientists also succeed in producing the first synthetic progestin preparation.

* 1961
On June 1, 1961 Schering AG introduces in West Germany the first oral contraceptive in Europe. It is also introduced in Australia in the same year. It is available only in pharmacies, and only on prescription.

* 1965 - 1968
A difficult start: In the first years, the pill is a controversial matter in Europe. It is only recommended for regulating menstrual disorders, and only for married women.

* Mid 1970s and throughout the 1980s
Estrogen and progestin levels in the pill, which is widely used by women all over the world, start to decrease -- with oestrogen doses dropping from 150mg to as low as 20mg and the introduction of new progestin compounds which provide benefits beyond contraception.

* The pill today
The pill and other contraceptives are a normal part of life. Schering's research continues. Current product developments aim at researching new compounds, or at reducing the dosages even further, so the preparations become even better tolerated.

Schering introduces the first pill containing the innovative progestin drospirenone. Drospirenone has a special feature: it counteracts the water-retentive properties of oestrogen and thus does not lead to a weight gain, which many women fear when starting the pill. Drospirenone was developed by Schering scientists. -- Compiled by S. Indra Sathiabalan

For more information, go to www.femalelife.com.my.


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