Naughty little pills
Abby OReilly // 20 August 2008
According to collaborative research carried out by the University of Liverpool and the University of Newcastle, the contraceptive pill can have a detrimental affect on a woman’s choice of a prospective partner.
Scientists asked a sample of women to smell six male body odour samples before and after they took the pill to determine which they found most compelling, and the before and after results were different.
This science behind this, from what I gather, is quite simple. This is because heterosexual women usually can’t get enough of the sweaty arm pits of men who are genetically dissimilar to themselves, whereas the pill distorts this inclination, meaning women on birth control are attracted to prospective partners with whom they share genetic likenesses.
The implications of this are as follows:
the pill disrupts the selection process and as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners, it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill Lead researcher Dr. Craig Roberts says by passing on a wide-ranging set of immune system genes, couples increase their chances of having a healthy child that is not vulnerable to infection and partners with different genes are also less likely to experience fertility problems or miscarriages. The researchers say major histocompatability complex cluster of genes which helps build proteins involved in the body’s immune response is also known to influence smell signals called pheromones and this leads women to use their sense of smell in helping to choose partners.
Hmm What to think about this? While it’s informative and interesting to an extent, the assumption underlying all of this research is that if a woman is taking the pill, it’s a temporary phase, because, of course, she is going to want children in the future. For a portion of the female population I am sure that this is true, it’s called family planning for a reason after all, but reports like this do nothing but incite anxiety and concern that if a woman is taking the pill, and then does decide to have a baby with a partner she has met ‘under the influence,’ then not only may she struggle to conceive, but when she does her newborn may have a number of genetic problems owing to the fact she had chosen to curb her womb’s creative urges for a limited amount of time.
Is this sort of research part of a much larger problem regarding reports on women’s fertility, designed firstly to make us panic, secondly to stop us taking any form of contraception, and thirdly to pressurise us to have children even if we do not want them because it’s what we are told we are supposed, nay have, to do? Conspiracy, maybe?
I don’t take the contraceptive pill as I don’t like the idea of chemically altering my body, but I have heard that it can have a lot of physical benefits beyond it’s primary objective, and if I was in a long-term relationship maybe I would consider otherwise. A pharmacist friend of mine, for example, told me that the pill can make a woman’s menstrual cycle a dream. A Dream. I am also discouraged by the fact I am so disorganised, so would end up taking packets upon packets one day of the month having realised I’d forgotten, which, from what a gather, is a big faux pas. Plus taking so many female hormones in one go could potentially result in me waking up with a face like a giant boob, and I’m not entirely sure how I’d feel about that.
But I don’t see a problem with other women choosing methods of birth control that are suitable for them, and think that until larger samples of the female population are analysed (there was no reference to the number of women questioned in this case, as far as I could find) and the results are more definitive, maybe media moguls should think about stopping regurgitating the same old supposed ‘women’s issues’ stuff, eh?