This Study Claims The Pill Changes Who Women Are Attracted To

According to the research whether or not you were on birth control when you met your partner is kind of a big deal.

The study, which has been published in Evolutionary Psychological Science, found that if a woman met her partner while she was on birth control and then went off it, her attraction towards him may change.

One of the author's of the study, Gurit Birnbaum, who is an associate professor at the Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology in Israel, told Psychology Today that the findings have a lot to do with the way our pheromones work.

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"Women who are not on hormonal birth control are naturally drawn to the body odour of men who have different immune systems to their own," she wrote. That all has to do with our bodies preparing for the possibility of a child.

The larger the dissimilarity between mates' immune systems, the more threats the immune system [of the offspring] can combat.

Now, the theory is that since birth control suppresses a woman's ovulation, her perception of what she wants from a partner will vary from when she's not taking the medication.

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How The Study Worked

The study looked at three groups of women:

  • Those who were on birth control when they met their partners and then went off it.
  • Those who were on birth control when they met their partners and were still taking it.
  • Those who weren't on birth control when they met their partners.

Here's what they found: 

The women who were on birth control and then stopped were more likely to feel desire towards images of attractive men during high-fertility phases of their cycle when compared to the other women in the study.

In an interview with VICE about the study, Birnbaum said it's important to remember that despite the data it's "unclear whether these women would have acted on their expressed desires".

Birnbaum even went on to advise that women "withhold pill use till you find a long-term partner."

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So, Should We Chuck Out Our Birth Control Pills?

Well, according to Australian GP Dr Sally Cockburn (AKA Dr Feelgood) "absolutely not".

If you decide to go and choose your partner while you're off the pill then you may as well just get pregnant.

Dr Cockburn went on to say that we shouldn't start stressing about whether or not you've chosen your partner based on your hormonal influences.

"Building relationships are certainly more than just one factor," she said. "Most relationships will become, over time, much more of a bonded friendship and that is natural."

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What About The  Pheromones?

Again, Dr Cockburn doesn't really give the old sniffing someone's shoes to see if you like them too much credence.

She explained: "The trouble with this whole notion of pheromones is that humans have lost that ancient part of our brain that uses them to find mates. The reason for this is that we are covert ovulators -- that means women (well, most women) don’t necessarily know when we ovulate.  We don’t go on heat. We’re not out there in the wild smelling pheromones."

All in all, while Dr Cockburn said she would approach the study with caution.

"I would put these results in the context of any population study," she said. "It’s a study of a group of people and you can’t necessarily translate that into your own situation."

Feature Image: Getty