The pill was originally made for men, but they didn’t like the side effects
So they gave it to women instead
by Helena Baron
It’s no secret that hormonal contraception can cause a variety of awful side effects within women. In fact, a recent Danish study, which tracked the prescription of antidepressants to over a million women over six years, found that women on birth control were a lot more likely to have them prescribed. And if you are a teen the study suggests there is an 80 per cent increase in risk of you being prescribed antidepressants after going on the pill.
What is more of a secret, as Bethy Squires points out in her article for Broadly, is that hormonal contraception was originally tested on men.
In the 1950s, biologist Gregory Pincus, amongst others, undertook trials on women taking an experimental drug he thought could prevent pregnancies. Before this, however, he had looked at birth control for men. But as Holly Grigg-Spall [author of Sweetening the Pill] explains: “It was rejected for men due to the number of side effects”.
It is interesting, then, that during his various studies, Pincus found that women experienced side effects such as bloating, potentially fatal blood clots, mood changes and nausea to name but a few. Nevertheless, “it was believed women would tolerate side effects better than men, who demanded a better quality of life.”
This little-known fact clearly shows the exploitation of a woman’s more vulnerable position, when it comes to unwanted pregnancies, as opposed to their male counterparts, who already had “a better quality in life” in so many other respects. However, after years of contraception being illegal in the majority of the USA towards the start of the twentieth century, (in the UK the Pill wasn’t freely available until 1961), once the women knew that the Pill could prevent unwanted pregnancies, it comes as no surprise that they signed up in mass.