Despite the protest, the birth control pill turns 50

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50th birthday of the contraceptive pill: a successful model or a danger to society

The birth control pill was approved in Germany 50 years ago. After the market launch was initially accompanied by massive protests from a wide variety of social groups, the birth control pill quickly developed into a successful model. Today, about every second woman between the ages of eighteen and 49 uses contraceptive pills, reports the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA).

Since then, the birth control pill has enabled young women in particular to plan their lives and families independently. However, the hormone preparations not only brought advantages, but also some serious disadvantages such as possible side effects and an increased hormone load in the wastewater. Although today's hormone preparations work with minimal hormone doses compared to the first German birth control pill "Anovlar", which was introduced on June 1, 1961, considerable side effects can still occur. In the beginning, the pills even looked like regular hormone bombs, which were often characterized by massive side effects such as a significant weight gain, nausea, migraine or depression. Nevertheless, young women in particular celebrated the birth control pill in the 1960s as a kind of sexual revolution.

100 million women use the birth control pill According to the Federal Center for Health Education, more than 6 million women use contraception today in Germany. The side effects that have occurred to date, such as breast tenderness, chest pain, headache, nausea, fungal infections, mood swings and impairments in libido, could not stop the triumphant advance of the birth control pill. The continuing protest on the part of the Catholic Church and the extremely conservative social groups did no harm to the success story of the contraceptive pill. Just two years after its introduction on the American market in 1960, over 2 million women took the pill daily, in 1968 it was already over six million and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 100 million women worldwide trust the birth control pill. The pharmaceutical industry has also recognized the market potential of the pill as a contraceptive and currently around 20 manufacturers in Germany offer over 100 different preparations. For example, the pharmaceutical company Schering (today Bayer), which also launched the first contraceptive pill on the German market in 1961, currently has 20 different hormonal contraceptives on offer (for example the best-selling contraceptive pill in the world "Yasmin") and generates one annually with these Turnover of almost three billion euros. Other big players in the pill business are Grünenthal and international groups such as Pfizer, Novartis and MSD.

Alternative contraceptive methods Despite its multiple side effects, the contraceptive pill is still the most popular contraceptive in Germany. Other comparatively harmless synthetic contraceptive methods that have significantly less side effects, such as the spiral, are not used as often. But there are also alternatives on a natural basis that ensure a relatively high level of contraception. These include, for example, the Mexican Wild Yam or in German: the Mexican wild yam. This was of great importance when the birth control pill was invented, because Mexican wild yam has been used in the medicine of Mexican primitive peoples for generations to treat a wide variety of symptoms but also to prevent them. In the middle of the last century, western scientists became aware of the effect of Mexican Wild Yam and intensively researched the active ingredient of the plant, which is crucial for the contraceptive effect. The researchers discovered the hormone-like active ingredient diosgenin and used it to develop the first synthetic active ingredients that were later used as birth control pills.

Natural contraceptive Mexican Wild Yam As a natural contraceptive, in contrast to the synthetic active ingredients obtained, the Mexican Wild Yam does not cause any known side effects. Rather, the plant also helps in low doses in the treatment of symptoms such as cramps in colic, inflammation and rheumatic pain. In addition, the Mexican Wild Yam is known to drive sweat, urine and gall and is said to have a liver-protecting effect. With regard to contraception, however, it is unclear whether only diosgenin builds up contraceptive protection or whether other active ingredients of the root also make a contribution. Therefore, when using as a contraceptive, eating the whole root is definitely recommended. A female midwife had to consume around 3,000 milligrams of the pulverized root every day in order to build effective contraceptive protection, the American midwife Willa Shaffer explained in her book "Wild Yam: Birth Control Without Fear" in 1986. What is special about Mexican Wild Yam is that neither egg maturation nor ovulation or the natural menstrual cycle is impaired, manipulated or even prevented by taking the root. "This is a contraceptive with no known side effects, which obviously has an incredibly high success rate," wrote Willa Shaffer 25 years ago. The daily intake of 3,000 milligrams of Mexican Wild Yam powder (in capsules) achieves an average contraceptive safety rate of 97 percent, which with regular intake, a natural lifestyle and stable health practically corresponds to 100 percent contraception, the expert explained. (fp)

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