Pilling up

I’m sure I’ve said it many times before, but I am so, so grateful for the existence of contraceptives, and not just for my own use. I’m grateful for the ready availability of many different kinds of contraceptives for so many people in the U.S.

I’m sure I’ve said it many times before, but I am so, so grateful for the existence of contraceptives, and not just for my own use. I’m grateful for the ready availability of many different kinds of contraceptives for so many people in the U.S.

While I’m still waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a 100-percent-effective birth control for men, I’ll settle for another newly developed female contraceptive. The FDA just approved a new drug called Quartette.

Quartette, a brand name for levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol and ethinyl estradiol, is an anti-pregnancy contraceptive in tablet form.

This new contraceptive has been lauded as a medical breakthrough and the “next generation” of birth control. That’s pretty high praise for such a little pill. Just what about Quartette is so special, and how is it “next generation”?

Contraceptives come in multiple forms: pills, shots, inserts, patches, condoms and more. What could possibly be done to improve the already effective—if used correctly—drugs out there already? Quartette stands apart because it minimizes breakthrough bleeding between menstrual cycles. The pill also breaks down the longevity of the cycle itself, so, rather than 12 periods per year, a Quartette user would have four short, light periods.

According to UPI.com, the contraceptive use is broken down over a 91-day period, with estrogen doses increasing at three pivotal points. These increases happen within the first 84 days, while the dosage of progestin stays the same.

This is all fine and dandy, but what about the other side effects that plague users of the pill and other contraceptives? Can Quartette counter the raging mood swings, weight fluctuations and other symptoms of taking birth control? Possibly!

Quartette’s creator, Teva Women’s Health Inc., specifically caters to—you guessed it—female clientele. In a statement about its new product, a representative said, “Quartette builds upon our heritage in providing women with innovative, extended-cycle contraceptive products and we look forward to the potential to offer the first ascending-dose extended regimen birth-control option.”

Aside from women’s health, the company also focuses on medicine relating to oncology, pain management and other major health concerns. The company continues to research contraceptives and other medicines. Go, Teva!

Preventing breakthrough periods might seem minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but it really isn’t. Just something as helpful as that makes life a hell of a lot easier for women using the birth control.

“How far we’ve come” notwithstanding, we still live in a world plagued by patriarchal mania, one obsessed with controlling every aspect of women’s lives. Not even a year ago, we started conversations about the “war on women,” when contraceptive talks and birthing rights were a hot topic in the presidential debates.

I mean, seriously—North Dakota just passed some of the strictest legislation controlling abortion: Abortions performed after 6 weeks are now criminal acts, regardless of a woman’s right to a legal and safe abortion granted under Roe v. Wade.

With this kind of bullshit happening all around us, any advancement for women’s health is a good one. Accessibility, though, is the greater challenge. Now that states like North Dakota have specific legislation alluding to these issues, accessing contraceptives apart from the over-the-counter condom (though the state will probably start keeping those locked up behind the counter pretty soon) will most likely become harder as well.

This is one of those times where more socialized health care might be something to consider. If the accessibility of this kind of medicine and health care is boosted, its use will increase, and, honestly, that will probably result in a lot more happy people, especially women, because they won’t have to worry all the time about accidentally getting pregnant.

I’m very grateful that I don’t have to constantly worry about late periods and unwanted pregnancies. I’m also aware that I live in a very liberal state, and much of the legislation that gets passed here is to protect me rather than strip me of my rights. Not everyone has that privilege, so we should do something about it.

Like always, that’s easier said than done, but if we can manufacture pills that do some pretty amazing things, I think we can work in solidarity to demand equal access to health care everywhere else in the U.S.

I like the idea of not having children until I’m ready, and everyone else deserves the right to be able to make that decision as well. I don’t know if I’ll go switch my prescription to Quartette until it’s been on the market for a while, but, who knows—this could be the beginning of some very beautiful reproductive medical science.