The institute began its journey as a family planning unit in 1954 at the ICRC (Later named as Cancer Research Unit). In 1956, the unit was reorganized as the Contraceptive Testing Unit (CTU). Within 5 years of its inception, the Institute broadened the spectrum of its activities and was therefore renamed as Reproductive Physiology Unit (RPU). During 1956-62, the unit was shifted thrice to accommodate its need for more space. This was paralleled by enormous expansion of its research activities. It was also felt that the unit should work in close collaboration with a public hospital to conduct application-oriented research. This led to the shifting of the Unit to the premises of the Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital, in 1963 and also a vital administrative transfer, from being governed by the Directorate of Family Planning, Government of India to the Indian Council of Medical Research.

In 1977, the Government of India recognized the need to review its national programs on population stabilization and welfare of the families. This assessment resulted in a major paradigm shift. The focus was shifted from “family planning” to “family welfare”. This was followed by the landmark development in 1994 when India as a signatory to the ‘International Conference on Population and Development’ declaration re-oriented the Family Welfare program to Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) program. The institute also responded, although on a limited scale, to the above paradigm shift by widening the spectrum of its research activities. This shift was more apparent in the beginning of the 21st century when the institute decided to adopt more holistic approach towards reproductive health. The institute ventured into several new areas of direct relevance to national needs. On 20th July 2002, the institute was rechristened as ‘National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health’. The national status was accorded to the Institute in recognition of its scientific contributions made since its inception.