The Pill Is Affecting Who You're Attracted To

by Aria Bendix

For years, we've thought of the Pill as a miracle contraceptive for regulating our periods and preventing unwanted pregnancies, but now we have good reason to believe that the Pill affects our attraction to others as well. According to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, going off the Pill may make women more inclined to prioritize attractive, or "genetically fit," partners. This means that if your partner isn't conventionally attractive, you might be less interested in them after going off of birth control. In the same vein, if your partner is a already a looker, you might become more excited by his looks (or find him even more attractive) post-Pill.

All of these findings are based on a study of 118 heterosexual couples who met while the woman was taking the Pill. Researchers then measured the women's level of attraction to their male partners after they had ceased with their method of birth control. According to Michelle Russell, the lead author of the study, the fact that majority of the women found attraction more important post-Pill likely has to do with the fluctuations of estrogen and hormonal changes that come with going off of birth control. The Pill, after all, is designed to trick your body into thinking that it's pregnant. Because of this, other studies have shown that women on the Pill are more attracted to men of a similar chemical makeup, since, evolutionarily speaking, pregnant women are physically drawn to their kin rather than their partners.

There's also reason to believe that, by influencing attraction, the Pill can affect one's marital happiness and sexual satisfaction. When speaking about the increased priority of attraction after going off of birth control, Michelle Russell tells TIME : "The effect that it would have on [a woman's] marital satisfaction would carry more weight."

Russell and her team have discovered that, on average, women who quit the Pill after their honeymoon are less sexually satisfied than women who began dating their husbands while on the Pill, and continued their usage through marriage. In terms of marital happiness, however, satisfaction only decreased alongside a decreased attraction to their partner.

In the end, then, it all seems to boil down to hormones, and whether or not our signals are telling us that the person in front of us is a desirable mate. Still, Russell contends that more research needs to be done in order to make any definitive conclusions. Certain brands of birth control, for instance, may be a confounding factor, Russell said. "Previous research suggests that estrogen partially accounts for women’s preferences for specific qualities in their partners, and [hormonal contraceptives] vary in the amount of estrogen they contain. It's possible that the effects we found may be stronger or weaker depending on the amount of estrogen in a particular formulation."

Before you make any big decisions about your birth control usage, therefore, it's important to recognize that there are always multiple issues at play. Hormones are a tricky business, and they're always in flux, so it's going to take a lot of research before pinpointing birth control as an impetus for attraction (or lack thereof). The important thing is to do your research in the meantime and figure out what option is right for you. Russell takes care to note, for instance, that hers is simply one of the many studies out there. "Any drug that you take, people want to be informed consumers. This is just one factor women might want to consider when deciding whether or not to use them."

And for many women, there are more important things to consider than attraction, such as a decrease in migraines, cramps, or, most importantly, the security of being able to have a child when and if the time is right. But no matter what the reason may be, or what new studies might find, the decision to use birth control will always be yours and yours alone.

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