Research proves that women who are on the contraceptive Pill tend to choose partners who are less attractive and unsatisfiying in bed, but a more reliable bet for a long-term relationship.
Really, haven’t scientists got anything better to do? Clearly not. This study was lead by Craig Roberts of Stirling University, Scotland and was based on a survey of 2,519 women in the United States, Czech Republic, Britain and Canada who had had at least one child. Oral contraception had been used by 1,005 women when they met their partner, while 1,514 had used no form of hormonal birth control at the first encounter. Overall, women who met their partner on the Pill had longer relationships, by two years on average, and were less likely to separate. The female volunteers were also asked to rate their relationship for general satisfaction, sexual pleasure and the attractiveness of their partner or, retrospectively, of their ex.
The results were published last week in the Royal Society journal ‘Proceedings’. Roberts said “Our results show some positive and negative consequences of using the Pill when a woman meets her partner. Such women may, on average, be less satisfied with the sexual aspects of their relationship but more so with non-sexual aspects.” Previous research by Dr Roberts found that Pill use alters women’s preference for men’s body odour. Instead of preferring genetically different men, when women go on the Pill their preference switches towards the odour of more genetically similar men, an analogue of women’s preferences during pregnancy. Fantastically, Dr Roberts concludes by suggesting that women who are concerned that they will no longer be attracted to their partner if they stop taking the Pill in the future could try using a non-hormonal barrier method of contraception for a few months to reassure themselves.
This study bothers me. Why? Well, previous ‘valuable’ research by Craig Roberts of the ‘University-with-too-much-money-to spend’ has proven that testosterone exposure in the womb gives sexy go-getting men a longer ring finger and that oestrogen and progesterone in the contraceptive Pill make women jealous, envious and mistrustful of their partners. This new research demonstrates that the pill ‘makes women chose partners that are and unsatisfying in bed, but a more reliable bet for a long-term relationship’. He has proven this, ‘scientifically’, using a likeart scale in which he asked women to compare the sex they have with their long term partner, to the sex they had with their ex. Unfortunately, Craig Roberts survey doesn’t seem to have taken into account the fact that the bird in the hand is never as appealing as the bird in the bush, or, to put it in more scientific terms, ‘the law of diminishing marginal utility’ determines that sex in a long-term relationship will always lose when it is pitched against fantasy sex with a bloke who’s socks you are no longer required to mate.
Roberts’ research would be amusing if the issue being overlooked wasn’t so damn serious. Since the pill was launched in the mid sixties there have been many developments in both dosage strengths, and the way that the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are synthetically combined, but a huge number of women still experience horrible physical and emotional side effects as a result of using it. Pharmaceutical companies are obliged to point out the fact that taking the pill may increase the risk of developing certain cancers and osteoporosis, and they cover their arses by listing a panoply of lower risk side-effects such as headaches, nausea, spots, weight-gain and hirsuitism, but what they are very reluctant to draw attention to, is the link between depression, mood swings and taking the pill.
When I went on the pill I found myself weeping at ‘Dogs Trust’ commercials within days. I mistakenly attributed my heightened emotional state to my new relationship but eventually realised it was the pill. Microgynon, the brand I had been put on is the name that pops up most frequently on web forums discussing depression, mood swings and the pill, but that is hardly surprising since it is the most commonly prescribed brand in the UK. What is less commonly known is that it was developed back in the 1970s and it costs the NHS just £2.82 compared to more modern combined pills such as Minulet which cost the NHS £6.84.
When I began to research this issue in a little more detail I discovered that in 2005, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni from the School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine at Monash University had compared depression symptom scores between users and non-users of combined oral contraceptives and found that women using the Pill had an average depression rating scale score of 17.6, compared to 9.8 in the non-user group. The women involved in the study were aged over 18, not pregnant or lactating, had no clinical history of depression and had not been on anti-depressant medication in the previous 12 months.
It seems a shame that scientists won’t focus their attention on this very real problem, rather than trying to establish tenuous, but headline grabbing links between hormones and relationship behaviours. And don’t get me started on the male pill…
Dr Ellen CG Grant has been in touch. She has been researching the harmful effects of the pill since 1962 and runs a website which you can look at here. Dr Grant’s work has been published in most major medical journals including The Lancet, The MNJ and Pub Med. In brief she says that the pill, which acts mostly like large amounts of progesterone, causes depressive mood changes and loss of libido due to high levels of monoamineoxidase (as in premenstrual tension) and apparently, a 1974 study by The Royal College of General Practitioners found that divorce had doubled in pill users compared to married women who had never taken the pill. If this is an issue that has affected you, or someone you know, do get in touch.