Using the oral contraceptive pill can alter the way a woman chooses a mate and cause subsequent marital difficulties, research from the US has shown.
In two linked studies that followed 118 newly-weds for between one and four years, Florida State University scientist Michelle Russell found that compared with women who did not use the oral contraceptive, females who were on the pill when they met and married their mates were significantly more likely to report a change in their stated marital and sexual satisfaction when they subsequently stopped birth control treatment.
In the study, an independent panel rated the facial attractiveness of the participants' male partners. If the woman's partner was of above-average attractiveness, the former pill users more often than not reported a subsequent increase in marital satisfaction. But if their partner was rated by the panel as less attractive, then the former pill user was more likely to report a decrease in marital bliss upon stopping contraceptive use.
Previous studies have suggested that oral contraceptive use may influence mate choice, fooling the body as it does into thinking it is pregnant. Consequently pill-using women are more likely to seek out partners they regard as safe, supportive and nurturing, traits which are valued during pregnancy and child-rearing over looks.
But upon stopping pill use, a woman reverts to a normal hormonal cycle, which previous research shows is linked to a preference during her fertile period each month for a more macho, masculine look. Consequently, if a woman meets and marries her partner while she is using the contraceptive pill, she's likely to forego "phwoar" factor in favour of other assets.
This, Russell and her colleagues suggest, in their paper in PNAS where the research is published, is what leads to the disappointment when the pill is stopped and the partner no longer lives up to expectations.