After shadowing and working in an OB-GYN’s office, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about women’s reproductive and sexual health in such a dynamic setting. In fact, I found the topic of birth control to be particularly interesting, as I had the unique opportunity to observe the doctor prescribe and insert various methods of contraception/birth control such as the pill, IUDs, implants, and patches.
Interestingly enough, long before the invention of the diaphragm that we now know of, women made barriers to prevent pregnancy with various materials we would consider to be quite odd today. Some examples include grasscloths, bamboo tissue, the feces of animals, sheep intestines, and more! In fact, one of the earliest noted prescriptions for birth control was in Ancient Egypt, and it called for the use of a sort of wool tampon soaked in dates, honey and ground thorn tree. In more extreme cases, in the 1930s, women would drink mercury or insert wooden blocks in order to prevent pregnancy.
In the 1960s, however, Margaret Sanger and Katherin McCormick worked alongside a scientist named Dr. Gregory Pincus in order to develop the earliest version of “the pill.” At first, such oral contraceptive measures were met with staunch opposition and disapproval. Eventually, however, the Supreme Court ruled that everyone had the right to privacy and access to information about birth control. Furthermore, with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, it was established that all methods of contraception should be made available and accessible to women.
It’s surprising to me that even now in the 21st century, birth control and contraceptive use remain a rather taboo topic. This social stigma is particularly concerning to me as an aspiring physician. It’s unfortunate that many girls feel uncomfortable discussing sexual and reproductive health issues, but I hope that this stigma is reduced in the future.