If you have ever sought the perfect birth control, then you well know how troublesome popular contraceptive methods can be, including the pill. Birth control pills often come with a host of side effects, including everything from weight gain to mood swings to low libido (ironic, isn't it?).
But drug companies haven't stopped trying. Recently, the FDA approved a new birth control made by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. The new pill, Beyaz, is quite similar to other birth control pills on the market, except it includes an added supplement of folate.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, can be found in many foods, such as dark-green vegetables and citrus fruits.
It's an important nutrient that contributes to many of the body's functions. However, it is most important during pregnancy, as it is believed to help prevent birth defects, preeclampsia, and spina bifida. Pregnant women are advised to take folic acid supplements every day (ranging from 400 to 1,000 mcg a day, depending on whether it’s an over-the-counter or prescription supplement). Beyaz contains 451 mcg of folic acid.
By now you might be wondering: Why should a woman who is trying to prevent pregnancy care about a nutrient that is largely important for pregnant women?
First, the birth control pill is not 100 percent effective, even when it is used correctly — which it often isn't. Common mistakes include forgetting to take the pill, taking the pill at different times on different days, and taking antibiotics without using a backup method of contraception. (Antibiotics can interfere with the efficacy rate of birth control pills.)
Any of these (plus the fact that abstinence is still the only foolproof way to prevent pregnancy) can lead to an unexpected pregnancy. The added boost of folic acid in Beyaz takes this possibility into account and helps to ensure that your body will be prepped for pregnancy, even if you aren't yet aware that you are pregnant.
Second, Beyaz can be beneficial even if you don't experience an unexpected pregnancy. Researchers believe that taking folic acid regularly (even if you aren't yet ready to have children) can help to ensure your future chances of a healthy pregnancy. Hence, Beyaz seems to offer the best of both worlds: effective, safe contraception for the present and healthy pregnancies for the future.
Is Beyaz too good to be true? It's too early to tell. Many women might be put off by the fact that Beyaz is almost identical to another Bayer contraceptive drug, Yaz. (Yaz was famously forced to run a series of commercials "correcting" claims they had made in previous ads in which Yaz's health benefits were overstated.)
More concerning is the fact that two recent studies found that women who use pills like Yaz (which are made with progestin drospirenone) are 64 percent more likely to suffer from blood clots than women who used birth control pills that don’t contain this new hormone component.
While lawsuits continue to plague Bayer over the Yaz debacle, some naysayers might wonder if this launch of Beyaz is simply a way to "reinvent" that pill and take the focus off past concerns.
While our ancestors would be blown away by the options and freedom women now have when it comes to birth control, we still haven't found a birth control pill that is safe, effective and free of serious side effects.
It's true, we have come a long way, baby, but we still have a long way to go. Here's to continued research and focus on sexual and reproductive health!