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The birth control pill, a Belgian invention

The concentration and composition of the most used birth control pill have been discovered by the Belgian gynecologist and scientist Ferdinand Peeters.  In 1957 the American biologist Gregory Pincus had already launched the Enovid pill but it still had too many side effects and was therefore only permitted as a remedy to stop painful menstruation periods. Ferdinand Peeters discovered a way by which women could arrange their fertility themselves. He improved the composition of Enovid and so invented the contraceptive pill as it is still used today.

In 1959, Dr. Peeters started a series of clinical tests with a hormone preparation offered by the German firm Schering AG from his laboratory in the Sint-Elizabeth hospital in Turnhout. For six months he and his assistants Reimond Oeyen and Marcel Van Roy tested the preparation on fifty women for whom having more children was a major health risk. After numerous experiments, he had found the correct dosage of the two hormones (progestogen and estrogen).

Dr. Ferdinand Peeters at his hospital desk

Peeters presented the findings to Schering in Berlin in 1960. The results were amazing. None of the women became pregnant and there were hardly any side effects. After Peeters' preparation (SH 639) was also found to be safe and efficient in the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, Schering introduced the Anovlar pill in January 1961.

Biologist Gregory Pincus tacitly acknowledged the superiority of Doctor Peeter's pill by halving the dose of Enovid in July 1961. So in the end it was Pincus who took the credit and went into history worldwide as the inventor of the contraceptive pill.

The contraceptive pill has a threefold effect: primarily fertilization is prevented by suppressing ovulation, in addition, progesterone ensures that the womb lining does not become larger, preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. In addition, the pill makes the mucus of the cervix thicker, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg.


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