Go to the site map page Go to the search page Go to the contact us page To to the Government Portal www.govt.nz Go to the top of the Page

Contraceptive pill - a revolution

Eugynon ED contraceptive pill
Eugynon ED contraceptive pill 1970s, Schering AG, Germany. Gift of Leslie and Shirley Megget, on behalf of Joyce Megget, 2010. Te Papa

The contraceptive pill was a 'revolution' for women wanting to control their fertility – and their lives. Before its introduction in 1961, couples used less reliable methods such as diaphragms and condoms … or abortion when desperate.

New Zealand women were quick to take up 'the Pill', which was originally only prescribed to married women. By 1974, half of all women of reproductive age were taking it, whether they were married or not.


Modern IUDs (intrauterine contraceptive devices) became available from the mid 1960s. The IUD allowed women greater independence from doctors, prescriptions, and the strict schedule required by the Pill, which had to be taken daily. Once an IUD was inserted, there it stayed. It could also be used without a partner's knowledge.

However, some IUDs, such as the Dalkon Shield, were found to be dangerous. The multi-filament thread could lead to infection, serious illness, or even death.

Concerns about contraceptives

In the 1970s and 80s, concerns grew over the side effects of the contraceptive pill and other contraceptive technologies. These health issues, combined with the growing feminist movement, saw increased debate over women's contraception. 'The snip' (vasectomy) also became more popular.

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.