Seven billion people – after half a century with the Pill

More than a week before the numerologically so exciting (!!) date of November 11 this year of AD 2011, the population of the world officially reached the count of 7 billion – and this should not go unnoticed in a blog that is about women’s health and human reproduction management. Why, by the time the 11-11-11 day came about, more than 2.5 million more babies were born around the world.

Eyeball the “infographic” data below here, accepting that the image contains one of the small European languages. You can handle this because it is a graphic representation of the world and its population. The data is based on a United Nations Report about the State of the World Population. I did not find anything like this infographic when I googled for said UN report, and the bigger languages of Europe were presumably preoccupied by other concerns (like the economy, and the associated politics, stupid…).

So, we refer to this source with all those un-English letters with diacritical marks [RB, Lidové noviny. From: ]. It’s the numbers and symbols that matter, including the relative sizes of the circles. And note also that the blue circles represent the size of the respective continents’ populations in 2010 versus the red projected population sizes in the year 2050.

By 2050, only Europe’s population will have decreased (projected by 19 million), while all the other continents’ populations will have continued to grow. North America’s population, by the way, is projected to grow only due to immigration, otherwise it would be dropping, too. At least the USA’s would.

World population

World population

12 years times 365 days/year = 4,380 days

Population growth = 1,000,000,000 people / 4,380 days =  228,310.5 people born per day  (2,511,415.5 babies in 11 days = 1 billion divided by 4,380 days in 12 years times 11 days)

Check out the arithmetic of the global population growth in recent days, if you like. It is based on the birth rate of 1 billion births per 12 years. That is indicated in the bottom part of the infographic, showing the worldwide number of people in increasing billions against the years at which the given billion count was reached up to now, and is projected to be reached in the future [rok means year and pocet obyvatel means number of people]. It’s noticeable that the UN-projected future growth rate slows down: see how 16, 29, 27 years between additional billion increments are projected for the next 3 one-billion increments.

I won’t go into the (serious) economic and political consequences of these numbers. Rather, I ask you to note that the current birth rate (1 billion per 12 years) has held steady for the last 3 or 4 one-billion increases in world population. Over most of the last half a century, world population grew in steps of one billion per 12 years.

We see that reaching the first billion of humans took more than 18 centuries (including BC). The second billion then took 123 years and the third 33 years, both these surely influenced by the two world wars. After that, the Pill notwithstanding, almost quarter of a million new people have been and are born globally every day (1B / 4,380 days of 12 years = 228,310.5 births per day).

Evidently, the introduction of the oral contraceptive pills and related contraceptives has NOT quite stopped the global population explosion. But then, what about the United Nations-projected drop in the population of Europe (which is a continent where the Pill is surely available)?

Well, I propose to share with you some data from Google Ngram Viewer, about the statistics on the recent historical occurrence of certain topics (such as contraception) in all books published in English, the data obtained via .

Briefly, when you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how much those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (here English-language books) over the selected years (here 1900 to 2008).

And an important point, also cited from there.

Question: Many more books are published in modern years. Doesn’t this skew the results?

Answer: It would if we didn’t normalize by the number of books published in each year.

Here is an example of the occurrence of three phrases (topics) in English-language books over the century from 1900 till 2008, the latest year available. The topics are: pregnancy complications, difficult birth, and birth complications.

Ngram 1: pregnancy complications, difficult birth, birth complications

Ngram 1: pregnancy complications, difficult birth, birth complications

The N numbers (or the number of phrase occurrences relative to all books) for the three topics are on the same scale as indicated on the vertical axis, and the graph shows that the number of books on difficult birth (red curve) rose steadily over the century – but the books on pregnancy complications (blue curve) and birth complications (green curve) shot up after 1960. These N numbers eventually level off and/or begin to decline after the year 2000. (As though everything has been written up, nothing new to publish?)

There were many more books written about birth control over the same period of 108 years. We can detect this in the N count on the vertical axis, which here has only 3 leading zeros as opposed to the 5 leading zeros at the maximum level in the previous graph (a hundred times as many books, even in 2008, after the decline from the mid-1970s). The initial rise from 1910 to 1930 must have been not on chemical contraception but (mostly) on the then happening calendar method of Ogino and Knaus, i.e. the later discarded so-called “Vatican Roulette”. That approach to birth control did not work – it could not work – so Margaret Sanger took it on herself (and on her wealthy-widow friend, Katharine McCormick) to cause the “magic bullet” of a pill to be developed. Some magic!

Ngram 2: birth control

Ngram 2: birth control

One more Ngram Viewer graph, since they say that three is a charm! The following graph compares the number of books on infertility (blue) with the number of books on contraception (red), and it is on the same scale as the birth control graph above (with only slightly lower maximum level, 0.00035% here vs. 0.00045% above).

Ngram 3: infertility and contraception

Ngram 3: infertility and contraception

Three may be a charm, but I will show you one more, so that you (or your friendly gynecologist) will not accuse me of trying to show that chemical contraception has caused infertility (the infertility epidemic). I have merely shared Google’s Ngram Viewer statistics on books written on given topics. Discourses written on contraception preceded those on infertility by at least 10 years, and the number of infertility books was still rising when contraceptive books were already declining in numbers in the 1980s.

Here then is one more Ngram comparing N numbers of books on behavior problems (blue), mental problems (red), and books on birthing (green curve).

Ngram 4: behavior problems, mental problems, birthing

Ngram 4: behavior problems, mental problems, birthing

You see that there are four leading zeros in the scale on the vertical axis, so the order of magnitude of the graphed N numbers is between the two orders of magnitude discussed above (it’s an order of magnitude below infertility and contraception). All three of the numbers in this Ngram rise around 1970, behavior problems books before, birthing books after.

Why did the numbers of books on birthing rise so sharply some 15 years after 1960? I don’t know that there is such a thing as invalid questions. The curves for mental health and birth are correlated, rising around 1970, too (not shown here).

Chemical contraception has not worked to reverse the global population explosive growth although it appears to have reduced the extent of the explosion.

But at what cost? Do look at the last Ngram, below, which compares the number of books on birth control (blue), sexually transmitted diseases (red), STD (green), VD (yellow), and STDs (dark blue). It is on the same scale as the birth control graph above (the second in the series). The green spike after 1960 is STD in singular, as opposed to sexually transmitted diseases (red) and STDs (dark blue), which you see rising slowly after 1980, paralleled by the higher green curve in those years, which starts going up even earlier.

This can be rationalized by the fact that earlier on there was merely one STD (or two), called VD in Britain and in Europe (yellow curve), where the rise occurred somewhat later than in the U.S., along with the slight delay in the “sexual revolution” and its consequences or rather the concerns about those consequences. The broad green, red and dark blue hills of elevated N readings before year 2000 reflect the multitude of STDs today, which numbers did not exist before the sexual revolution. The singular VD has morphed into the plural STDs and sexually transmitted diseases.

Ngram 5: birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, STD, VD, STDs

Ngram 5: birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, STD, VD, STDs

I leave the “now what” maybe for another time, but a follower of this blog will have an idea.

As of this writing, to cite the three bioZhena’s Weblog Top Posts (the past week):

Trying to conceive, #ttc, or the frustration of sub-fertility & infertility in 2010/2011          40 views

Saint Nicholas Day, his legend, and our modern day’s prematurity, EDD calculation, gestational age, problem with LMP          33 views

Critique of birth control efficacies in NFP as published by Marquette University researchers          21 views


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One Response to “Seven billion people – after half a century with the Pill”

  1. Difficult to conceive – Google evidence that pregnancy complications and trying-to-conceive concerns shot up after the Pill launch in 1960s « bioZhena’s Weblog Says:

    […] It is possible to examine the English-language literature for the frequency of addressing certain topics over a period of time. I already did this in the recent post “Seven billion people – after half a century with the Pill”. […]

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