Check out this image of the first birth control pill. Strange, huh? Aside from the difference in dosage (5 mg – goodness!), what really blew my mind was the packaging. It never occurred to me before that the pill is one of the only medications I know of that comes packaged with careful such consideration to memory. In case you aren’t a pill user, the pills we use now generally look like this:
Helpfully labeled by date so we can remember if we took them or not.
According to this article on BC packaging at SocImages, back then “[w]omen were supposed to take 20 pills in a row, then none during their period. It was up to them to keep track of everything and remember when it was time to start taking the pills again.” Frankly, even with the carefully labeled packaging we use now, many women have a hard time remembering to take the pill on time (no judgment here, ladies, I’m a terrible pill taker myself. Nuva Ring for the win!) I imagine there were many problems with taking it correctly, because it wasn’t long before an engineer created a pack that held exactly one month of pills, so that you knew when it was time to stop and have your period (Did you know that you don’t have to have a period on the pill? We’ll talk more about that another time). It came with a watch that had a calendar for your husband … I don’t know, it was the ‘60s. Finally, in 1965, we got day labels and placebo pills so we knew when to start a new pack.
Though it seems we’ve got the scheduling thing as nailed down as possible, birth control pill packs have still gotten more elaborate over the years (Alarms! Flowers!) Most of the fancy designs you can buy now seemed to be aimed at concealing the fact that you are carrying around birth control (sooo many make-up compact dupes!) or just looking as girly as possible – not bad things, of course, just interesting. The pill isn’t just another medication to many people – it’s a private matter you don’t want someone catching a glimpse of in your purse, or maybe something to dress up and celebrate.