Our Bodies, Ourselves, a succession to a pamphlet of resources pulled from co-ops of women in and around Boston, Massachusetts was published in New York in 1973 by Simon and Schuster. Retitled from the original Women and Their Bodies, Our Bodies, Ourselves was an effort by a group of educated, middle class women to reinforce women's ownership of their bodies. There have been eight editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as sequels such as Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause. Our Bodies, Ourselves has sold more than four million copies and been printed in twenty foreign-language editions.
The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive first introduced by Howard Tatum and Jamie Zipper in 1967. Health care providers place an IUD inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Copper IUDs are typically made of T-shaped plastic with some portion covered with exposed copper. Prior to the invention of the first IUDs, women had few long-term options for safe and reliable birth control. Those options mostly consisted of barrier methods and the oral birth control pill, which were only effective if used correctly and consistently. For women seeking to control their fertility, a copper IUD was one of the first forms of long-term birth control that was highly effective and did not require consistent and regular action on the woman’s part to remain effective.
In “Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use,” hereafter “Explaining Recent Declines,” researchers John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh discuss what led to the major decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates from 1995 to 2002. Working with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, they found that the decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates between 1995 and 2002 was primarily due to improved contraceptive use. They published their article in 2007 after the US government had increased funding for abstinence-only education between 1998 and 2007. “Explaining Recent Declines” challenged US policies by asserting that there was minimal evidence to support abstinence-only sex education as the primary strategy to prevent adolescent pregnancy.
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services. During the early 1900s, Dennett distributed a pamphlet she wrote on sex education called, The Sex Side of Life, through the post, which triggered a series of legal challenges that contributed to the dismantling of the Comstock Act. Dennett was an advocate for sex education and contraceptives, and her actions helped increase women's access to information about reproductive health.
The NuvaRing is a self-administered hormonal contraceptive device in the form of a flexible plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. It releases the hormones etonogestrel and ethinylestradiol, which are synthetic forms of the female reproductive hormones progesterone and estrogen, respectively. The pharmaceutical company Organon first made NuvaRing in the Netherlands in 1980s. The Netherlands first approved it for use in February of 2001, and the United States did the same in October of that year. To insert the NuvaRing, a user pinches the ring together to compress it and inserts it into the vaginal canal, where its exact placement does not matter. The NuvaRing stays in the vagina for three weeks, after which the user removes it for one week. During the week following removal, the user experiences bleeding similar to a menstrual period. The NuvaRing was one of the first monthly vaginal rings used for contraception, and it provides a self-administered method of birth control, which can be more accessible for some users than taking a birth control pill every day.
Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T. The horizontal shafts of the IUD held a reservoir of the hormone Levonorgestrel that the IUD slowly released at a constant rate over the IUD’s lifetime, allowing the hormonal IUD to remain effective for five to seven years. Women can use hormonal IUDs for long term contraception that requires no maintenance on the part of the user. The hormonal IUD provides women an option for reliable long-term birth control that does not require maintenance to remain effective.
The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) that women used in the early 1970s and 1980s. Produced by the A.H. Robins Company in the US, the Dalkon Shield was a contraceptive device placed directly into a woman’s uterus that was supposed to prevent the development of a fetus in the uterus. In the 1980s, researchers uncovered an array of severe birth defects and injuries caused by the Dalkon shield, including pelvic infection, infertility, and death of the user. Eventually the A.H. Robins Company took the shield off the market, and the US Food and Drug Administration banned the device. Some users of the Dalkon shield sued the producers of the device, winning millions of dollars in compensation and punitive damages. After the dangers of the Dalkon Shield became public through those lawsuits, the popularity of intrauterine devices decreased significantly in the US.