As an obstetrician-gynecologist in the 1950s, Jack Lippes, MD, ’47, fielded many complaints from patients dissatisfied with their limited options for birth control. “Back then, it was a diaphragm or condoms—that was it,” the UB professor emeritus recalls.
The need for “something better,” as Lippes says, prompted him to research a new design for the intrauterine device.
At that time in the United States, controversy surrounded IUDs’ safety and effectiveness. The mainstream medical establishment considered them outside the realm of standard medical practice; gynecological textbooks only mentioned them in condemnation. Indeed, the few doctors who did offer patients IUDs often swore them to secrecy, so fearful were they that colleagues would ostracize them.
As Lippes embarked on his research, many discouraged him, calling it “radical” and warning him that he would be sued. And still he forged ahead, vigorously pursuing a more effective IUD design than what had been invented to that point. The result was the plastic double “S” loop—a trapezoidal-shaped IUD that closely fit the contours of the uterine cavity, thereby reducing the incidence of expulsion.
First distributed in 1962, the Lippes Loop quickly became the most widely prescribed IUD in the United States.