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How Contraceptive Pill Influences Partner Choice

August 26, 2008 | 48,424 views

couple, attraction, choose mateThe contraceptive pill may disrupt women's natural ability to choose a partner genetically dissimilar to themselves. This could result in difficulties when trying to conceive, an increased risk of miscarriage and long intervals between pregnancies. Passing on a lack of diverse genes to children could also weaken their immune systems.

Humans tend to be attracted to those with a dissimilar genetic make-up to themselves, maintaining genetic diversity, which is signaled by subtle odors. A research team analyzed how the contraceptive pill affects odor preferences, and found that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odors.

Not only could genetic similarity in couples lead to fertility problems, but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners, researchers said.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Who you ultimately choose for a romantic partner is influenced by much more than meets the eye. Earlier this year, researchers confirmed the presence of  a “secret sex nerve” (Nerve “O”), which has endings in your nasal cavity.

Nerve O’s fibers go directly to the sexual regions of your brain, and because Nerve O bypasses the olfactory cortex, it does not register a conscious smell, but rather identifies chemical sexual cues.

Research has shown that the unconscious cues processed by Nerve “O” can “make or break a relationship.” Similar to the findings of the study above, the researchers found that you are more likely to be attracted to people whose scent is dissimilar to your own. Couples who have high levels of chemicals in common are more likely to encounter fertility issues, miscarriage and infidelity.

What is interesting, though, is that pregnant women are drawn to people with a similar chemical makeup. What does this have to do with women taking the contraceptive pill?

When a woman takes a hormonal contraceptive, her body believes, in a sense, that she is pregnant. And this causes her to become unconsciously attracted to men with a similar, rather than different, chemical makeup.

Aside from the risk of fertility problems that this creates, if you were on the pill when you met your mate, you might feel less attracted to him when you stop taking it.

And on a much deeper level, it’s alarming that these pills are altering, on a very subtle level, chemical signals in your body. This is a stark reminder that drugs, whether birth control pills or otherwise, influence your body in ways that may not be obvious, but which can have a major impact on your life.

Is Taking the Pill More Important Than Your Health?

Artificially controlling a woman’s menstrual cycle with synthetic hormones would certainly seem an ideal method of reversible birth control. And contraceptive pills are a convenient way to prevent pregnancy … but that’s where their benefits end.

In my opinion, it’s a tragedy that 16 million American women use birth control pills, as they are linked to numerous health risks -- and no level of convenience is worth risking your health.

Consider the evidence:
Many women also report awful side effects from the pill, which are undoubtedly due to the artificial hormones running through your body. These include:
  • Migraines and nausea
  • Weight gain and mood changes
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Yeast overgrowth and infection
Because the risks are so high, and other safer options exist, I recommend that ALL patients who visit my clinic stop taking hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills as soon as possible.  In my mind I simply can’t imagine a scenario where they would ever be recommended.

Natural Alternatives to the Pill

Natural family planning (NFP) and barrier methods are effective ways to prevent pregnancy without damaging your health. Plus, many women feel empowered by NFP because it allows them to get in touch with their fertility cycle.

I do recommend that you learn the method from a reliable source and if preventing pregnancy is an absolute must you may want to use a backup barrier method until you feel comfortable with the technique you’re using.

When used properly, the following natural methods can be just as effective as the pill:
  • The temperature method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of your ovulation so that intercourse can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate "basal" thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation.
Illness or lack of sleep can change your body temperature and make this method unreliable by itself, but when it is combined with the mucus method below, it can be an accurate way of assessing fertility. The two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.
  • The mucus method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of your vaginal discharge, which reflect rising levels of estrogen in your body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise.
When your discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed.

You can also use some of the more common, non-hormonal, barrier methods, such as:
  • Male condoms: Condoms have a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly. A water-based lubricant will increase the effectiveness; do not use an oil-based lubricant, however, as they break the latex.
  • Female condoms: These thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside your vagina before intercourse are 95 percent effective. Female condoms are less likely to tear than male condoms.
  • Diaphragm: Diaphragms, which must be fitted by a doctor, act as a barrier to sperm. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, they are 92 to 98 percent effective.
  • Cervical cap: This heavy rubber cap fits tightly against your cervix and can be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness above 91 percent.
These methods may seem cumbersome at first, especially compared to the “pill-popping” method, but the bit of extra effort pales in comparison to the health risks you’ll avoid in the years to come.

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