The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The birth control pill is a 4mm tablet containing oestrogen and/or progesterone, typically used as a method of oral contraception. The side effects leaflet, however, is a 3-foot-tall encyclopaedia of potential adverse reactions, able to be used as a small blanket. Interestingly, the side effects of birth control on our romantic and sexual relationships are nowhere to be found. Although research into this field is still in its infancy, recent studies imply that the pill can rewire our love and sex related biochemical circuits, meaning that one tiny pill may have a significant effect on your love life.
In substituting our natural hormones with artificial ones, our desires and perceptions may change on a basic biological level, so much so that some research suggests the pill can dictate who you’re attracted to. Taking a daily stream of synthetic hormones mimics the internal state of preparing for egg fertilisation – in other words, your body thinks it’s pregnant. A study on heterosexual women revealed that when taking birth control, our bodies go on a biochemical hunt for a baby daddy, searching for a number of specific qualities that we might not consciously expect.
Rather than following our hearts, our bodies are following our pheromones. Imagine an automatic biological Tinder: our pheromones swipe right on those genetically dissimilar to us, signalling who is a perfect reproductive match to make a healthy baby. Although you may think your type is tall, dark, and handsome, the pill has a type of its own – good genetics and financial security. That’s right, birth control is a gold digger. Pill-taking women in this study were said to value high income and intelligence over looks, suggesting a shift in mate preference towards long term stabilising qualities that will keep us safe and secure (remember – our bodies think we’re pregnant).
Further research indicates that some women who started a relationship on the pill were less attracted to their partner when coming off it, perhaps due to a shift from what the pill desires to what you actually look for in a partner. Keep running back to that nice and caring guy even though you don’t know why you’re attracted to him? The pill craves comfort for your ‘pregnant’ body.
Ironically though, many women go on the pill to avoid pregnancy. There’s a commonly held misconception that birth control makes sex stress-free and more enjoyable, but in reality, it may be doing the complete opposite. The good news is that the pill prevents the terror of unplanned pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation; the bad news is that this can cause your sex drive to plummet. Suppressing ovulation in turn suppresses normal testosterone production needed for a healthy libido, and to make matters worse, our sex drive should peak at ovulation, so without this, many women may experience sexual dysfunction and issues with arousal, pleasure, and orgasm.
Now, if I’ve scared you into thinking that once you stop taking birth control you’ll fall out of love with your boyfriend or that going on the pill will make you never want to have sex again – do not panic! This information is based on a limited number of studies and researchers are urging that further work must be carried out to aid the health of women’s bodies and love lives. Each woman may experience different side effects from the pill – this analysis is not ‘one bra fits all. Some women actually report greater relationship satisfaction whilst on the pill. One study found that women on birth control are more likely to be attracted to men with lower testosterone, which is a predictor for relationship stability. Another found that the pill increases our levels of oxytocin (AKA the ‘love drug’), so you may feel more in love than ever. Although there’s more to romance than just biology, if you’re worried about these potential side effects, speak to your doctor about contraception plans.
You may take the pill to control your relationships, specifically by keeping them baby free, but is the pill controlling your relationship instead?