Over the last ten years or so, “fertility” to many of my female friends, colleagues and wider circle of acquaintances has often been about encouraging the arrival of babies, rather than preventing them.
Inadvertently, I’ve become familiar with words and phrases like IVF, surrogacy, Clomid, cervical mucus and the like. Although two-thirds of British women in the 20-24 age group take the Pill, when you’re in your 40s (or even in your late 30s), you tend not to do so, either by virtue of your age (and weight, or smoking status) or because you actively want to have children and so popping a daily pill from its little multi-coloured blister pack is an act from the past.
In series one of iconic TV show “Mad Men”, there’s a scene where ambitious Peggy, newly working in Manhattan and determined to be independent, goes to see a doctor (who smokes throughout her examination – another example of how this visually stunning TV show uses props to invoke a sense of time, place and era) in order to obtain the Pill.
It’s the early 1960s and, for the first time, there are doctors who will provide (unmarried) girls like Peggy with the tool to free them from their fertility.
I’m nearly as old as the Pill, a fact of which I was reminded by this article in the weekend’s Observer, which celebrates the Pill’s 50th birthday and reminds us of how far we’ve come since Peggy’s day. How about this quote?
“Well into the 1970s, women in Britain and America were still pretending to be married in order to get a prescription; some used to pass around the same battered wedding ring in the doctor’s waiting room.”
And as novelist Margaret Drabble comments:
“I think I would have had a child a year if I hadn’t started taking it.”
So, happy golden birthday to the Pill, an iconic symbol of late 20th century autonomy for women.