Sex and Birth Control

At the end of the 20th century, the average number of children in a family had fallen to 1.7 from an average of 3.5 at the start of the century.

Dr Marie Stopes opened the United Kingdom's first family planning clinic in London in 1921. The Mother's Clinic, at 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway, offered a free service to married women. In 1925, the clinic moved to Whitfield Street in central London, where it remains today.

Marie Stopes created one of the greatest social impacts of the 20th century. Dr Stopes played a major part in removing taboos about sex, which began to improve people's knowledge about contraception and reproductive health. Interest in birth control methods continued to increase as the century progressed.

Condom vending machines were first introduced in the 1930s. A single condom was dispensed in an aluminium container, and cost 1 shilling. By 1934, there were 16 machines in London.

The birth control pill was developed in the 1950s. From 1961, women who wished to use the oral contraceptive could have it prescribed on the National Health Service. In 1998, it was estimated that over 3.25 million women in Great Britain were taking the Pill.

In the second half of the 20th century, the wider choices in birth control led to better education and an increased sexual freedom, especially for women. Changing outlooks have meant greater tolerance for different lifestyles, such as homosexuality. This has encouraged more self-expression, which in turn has influenced the fashions, music and culture of the 20th century.

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