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Is your husband unattractive? Don’t stop your birth control pills because that could make it worse.
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that women who stopped taking their birth control became less attracted to their partners if they were not generally handsome by evolutionary standards. The evolutionary standards include things like jaw structure and chest to waist ratios as well as symmetry. The study followed 118 couples and found a correlation between stopping birth control and a decrease in the level of attraction the women felt toward their male counterparts.
This is not the first study to look at birth control’s effect on female attraction. Other studies have shown varying levels of effect based on the fluctuation in estrogen and other hormone levels caused by both birth control pills and pregnancy. Simply put, estrogen and other hormones are our bodies’ signaling system that has numerous functions both currently known and unknown. When medications are taken that affect the levels of these highly evolved signal pathways, there is no doubt that there will be changes within the body and the mind.
There are hypotheses that try and explain these effects from an evolutionary perspective. For example, the study in Scientific American suggested that women who are not currently pregnant are more attracted to genetically dissimilar mates. This would be an evolutionary selection to prevent incest and promote genetic transfer of unique characteristics. It further suggests that women who are pregnant may be more attracted to genetically similar individuals, perhaps promoting the bonding process with family members. Levels of oxytocin associated with and without pregnancy also have been suggested to play a significant role in attraction and the level of bonding and comfort between individuals.
Further study is warranted before causation can be determined and there are myriad other chemical signals within the body that play a role in attraction. For women seeking advice on birth control, this is just further proof that a comprehensive discussion with a well-versed physician should be had prior to taking this, or any, drug.