- Fertility & Reproductive Systems
birth control affects sexual attraction
Birth Control Affects Scent
When it comes to sexual attraction or picking a mate scent plays a much more significant role in the process than whether a female likes what cologne a man uses. Although many of us want to believe we have evolved past the point where smell played a role in picking our mates, studies prove otherwise.
In a study on signaling mechanisms based on scent by biologist Claus Wedekind, participants were asked to sniff shirts and report which odors they were most attracted to. Most often, the smells women found most attractive were from the T-shirts of men whose immunological genes were the most different from theirs. The reason this is biologically significant has to do with MHC, or major histo-compatibility complex. MHC is what helps our immune systems recognize the difference between a harmful pathological entity and our own self cells. It is thought that MHC plays a major role in those who have auto-immune disorders, where one's own immune system attacks healthy cells, and the study showed that we do have the ability to smell these MHC differentiations.
Even though one might think they choose their mate based purely on physical or personality attributes, it seems we haven't lost our important primal instincts enough to sense which mates would create healthier children with strong immune systems. It is biologically important to be able to smell these differences so that we can create strong kin and healthy future generations. Our hormones are responsible for this ability and this is where birth control pills can become an issue.
Birth control works by tricking your body into thinking you are pregnant. Pregnancy causes a change in hormones which alter your sense of smell. Our sense of scent and it's ability to pick up hormonal markers help us to pick mates that are healthier individuals. Being on the pill would in turn affect the woman's ability to smell the differentiation in MHC between their mate and themselves. If a woman was on birth control when she met her significant other and wasn't able to sense too many similarities with their MHC, the couples can go through a tough time with fertility while trying to conceive children. Not only that, but if a woman marries while on birth control and later decides to stop taking birth control, she might find that she is no longer sexually attracted to her mate.
This is a major issue, as birth control pills are now touted as the easiest and best way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. It is teens and young women who are told this in health class and by doctors as soon as they are thinking about becoming sexually active. Teen pregnancy is a very important issue on it's own, but it is around this age that most women start becoming interested in finding their perfect partner for marriage and children. As much as we teach teens about safe sex and birth control, we should also be teaching them that they probably shouldn't start taking the pill until after they have found their significant other and are thinking about having sex. This way, the initial attraction phase has already happened, and the woman knows that her mate and her are compatible for conceiving healthy children.
Women on the pill less attractive to men
Not only can a woman become less attracted to her man after she stops taking the birth control pill, but this problem works in reversed situations as well. In New Mexico, an evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller did a study on exotic dancers. This may sound odd, but in actuality these women were perfect for a study on sexual attraction because their income from tips depend on how attractive men think they are. The findings of the study showed that women who were ovulating made an average of 50% more tips per night than those using birth control pills. This finding coincides with other studies where it was found that men are attracted to a woman's scent the most when she is at the most fertile point in her cycle, which is of course during ovulation. According to Miller, the reason men find women on the pill less attracted has to do with scent based cues the woman gives off that she is in the beginning stages of pregnancy which he says, "would not tend to elicit a lot of male sexual interest."
There are many other studies that document this phenomenon in much further detail in the video below.
Great Video on This Topic!
Trust Your Instincts
Although scent definitely plays a major biological role in attraction towards the opposite sex, it definitely isn't the only factor. Physical attraction is one of the most important factors in the initial attraction stage. Then of course there are other factors which further influence decisions when picking a perfect mate such as sense of humor, shared common interests, steady career, owning a home and more. However, a woman seeking a male companion might find someone who fits all her criteria and just not like his scent, or she might just feel that something else if off that she just can't put her nose on.
As far away as it may seem we have gotten away from our basic primal instincts, studies prove time and time again that they are still just as important now as they ever were before. If you or someone you know thinks something seems off with a potential mate, ask them to stop wearing cologne or perfume, and then allow your true instincts to take over and alert you to any possibility that this mate might not be the right one for you. If you are a male and are finding yourself less attracted to your female partner since she started the pill, ask her if she wouldn't mind using condoms more often, or if she can switch to a non-hormone based alternative.
If you have a great fulfilling relationship with someone but don't like their scent, don't run for the hills just yet. It is important to note that although these studies findings are real, the ability to smell MHC similarities between two partners that might cause fertility difficulties are as of yet not concretely proven.