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The Pill Turns 50
Date:5/7/2010

l also reversed gender roles in some fundamental ways, many contend.

"First, it let men off the hook," Sanger said. "The condom went from the number-one method of birth control in 1960 to an also-ran five years later. There's one school of thought that says men used this as an excuse to avoid responsibility if there was an unintended pregnancy. . . Therefore, there was a rise in births to single mothers and the decline of marriage."

The early side effects of the Pill, which included stroke, blood pressure problems, weight gain and acne, may have inadvertently unleashed feminism, Sanger added.

"The side effects of the first-generation Pill -- that did more for creating modern feminism than the Pill itself," he said. "Women who were experiencing these serious side effects went public and dared to speak out. Women in the '60s were nascent feminists saying, 'Enough. We're not going to be treated as guinea pigs and have doctors and scientists telling us this is all in our imaginations.' This was really a consciousness-raising moment. Women spoke out, admitted they were on the Pill and admitted they were having sex. For women to do, that was quite stunning."

As new generations of the Pill have been unveiled, the early panic over its health risks have subsided to a large degree. The Pill is now known to have some health benefits, including reducing the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. And a large study released in March found that women who took oral contraceptives at some point in their lives have a lower risk of death than women who never tried the Pill.

Still, the modern Pill can come with unwanted side effects, such as nausea, weight gain or weight loss, and painful or missed periods. Less common symptoms can include severe headache, severe chest pain, coughing up blood, partial or complete loss of vision, and depression, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Oral contraceptives can al
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