n South African Medical Journal - Rock's pill that rocked the world

Volume 100, Issue 12
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



I was a rookie doctor on the goldmines in the early 1960s. Part of my duties was to look after the families in the villages of the Anglo American mines at Welkom in the Free State. Their invariably large numbers of children prompted me to enquire whether they wished to have assistance in family planning. Their positive response led me to visit family planning clinics in Johannesburg. The standard methods in use at the time were condoms (spoken about in hushed whispers), the 'Dutch cap' or diaphragm, and an intra-uterine device (Lippes loop). However, I found that a small number of women in the private sector were using a new product known as 'the Pill'. As this was very expensive, it could not be used in public sector family planning clinics.

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