Planned Parenthood celebrates 50 years of the pill

Published 11:10 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sunday was a significant day and not just because of Mother’s Day. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Food and Drug Admnistration approval of the pill — possibly the most popular contraceptive ever.

Though the pill has a long and controversial history today, about 100 million women in the world use it. Albert Lea has had a family planning facility since 1971. Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota in Albert Lea served almost 1,000 people last year.

“The pill was the very first step in helping females to be able to have control over their fertility,” certified nurse and midwife Pam Glenn said. “What a significant life-changing development that is.”

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Glenn works at Planned Parenthood as director of all advanced practice nurses. She said the pill is still one of the most used birth control methods today.

“In the U.S. 19 percent of all women age 14 to 44 use it, which is nearly 12 million women,” Glenn said.

When the pill first came out it was in unnecessary high doses and there were health issues, but Glenn said the smaller doses of the pill now are safe and even have some positive health effects.

“The pill can actually prevent ovarian and uterine cancer,” Glenn said. “There are some great benefits of the pill that aren’t always well-advertised.”

A study was done over the course of almost 40 years and the findings recently came out this spring. The study showed the pill may increase longevity.

“Our clinicians never take for granted the impact we can have on patients’ lives in providing them accurate information about birth control,” Glenn said.

She said that Planned Parenthood encourages all clinicians to talk to patients about the benefits and risks of taking the pill. Glenn thinks the pill is important because women can decide to put off starting a family to do other things first.

“It’s significant that a patient is feeling empowered to make this decision to hold off on pregnancy and to be able to accomplish other goals,” Glenn said.

The typical patient at Albert Lea’s branch of Planned Parenthood on East Clark Street is a woman between the ages of 20 and 30 who is at or below the federal poverty level.

Glenn said clinicians hope that all pregnancies are planned. For women who want to finish college or are unemployed the pill helps to make sure they don’t have an unwanted pregnancy.

“We really want to have pregnancies planned and starting off in the healthiest way possible,” Glenn said. “The pill is one mechanism that allows us to do that.”

She said Planned Parenthood clinicians are serious about taking the time to talk with patients about different methods of birth control and the safety of each.

“There’s quite a list of benefits of taking the pill,” Glenn said. “We try to inform patients of the risks that are out there so they can make an informed decision.”