Birth control pills lengthen relationships – but sex is worse, say researchers

Ditch the Pill 'to help decide if you really fancy him' contraceptive alters way users feel about love and sex

Pill prolongs relationships by up to two years – but makes users find sex less satisfyingCan cause users to stay in relationships when 'spark' has goneScientists advise users to take 'holiday' from Pill

Fiona Macrae Science Correspondent


08:05 GMT, 28 March 2012



01:22 GMT, 29 March 2012

Losing weight, sorting out seating plans and choosing menus are essentials for many a bride-to-be.

One thing that’s rather less likely to be on her to-do list, however, is coming off the Pill.

But that’s exactly what scientists are advising – so that women can make sure they’re still attracted to their partners.

Pros and cons: Oral contraception can make relationships stronger - but sex life worse, say researchers

Scientists have advised women to try some time off the Pill before marriage in order to see that their feelings remain the same – the Pill alters body chemistry so women enjoy sex less, but stay in relationships longer

They say the hormones in the oral contraceptive affect the type of chap a woman is attracted to.

So if she was on the Pill when they
met, she might get a shock when she comes off it – and ought to have a
trial run before she settles down.

But other experts have urged women
not to throw away their packets of the Pill, saying taking the risk of
becoming pregnant is an extreme way to work out whether a man and woman
are suited.

To look at the effect of the Pill on
women’s taste in men, Dr Craig Roberts of Stirling University questioned
more than 2,500 mothers from around the world on how happy they were in
their relationships.

Some had met their partners while on
the Pill. Most, but not all of those surveyed were still with the
fathers of their children.

Those who had been on the Pill reported less sexual satisfaction than the other women.

They found their husband or boyfriend
less attractive and less exciting in the bedroom, the journal
Proceedings of the Royal Society B reports.

But the Pill users rated their
partners more highly in other ways, seeing them as more faithful, more
supportive and better providers.

Overall, these positives seemed to
outweigh the less exciting sex lives, with relationships lasting two
years longer on average if the woman had been on the Pill at the start.

It is thought the hormones in the
Pill tend to sway women away from ‘macho’ men who provide the thrill of a
fling towards more sensitive types who will be a better bet in the

Dr Roberts said: ‘The implications
of our study seem to be that by changing your hormone profile through
using the Pill, you might shift your preference away from “cads” in
favour of “dads”.’

He stressed that his results are
based on the average responses of thousands of women, and not every
woman on the Pill will experience the same effects.

He does, however, advise Pill-users
who think they are ready to settle down to see if using condoms or other
non-hormonal contraceptives alters their opinion.

Bond: Birth control pills on overage lengthened relationships by two years according to the University of Stirling research

Bond: Birth control pills on overage lengthened relationships by two years according to the University of Stirling research

He said: ‘Choosing a non-hormonal
barrier method of contraception for a few months before getting married
might be one way for a woman to reassure herself that she’s still
attracted to her partner.’ Others said that it is impossible to draw any
conclusions from the study, simply because women who choose to take the
Pill are likely to be different from those who do not.

Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility expert
at Sheffield University, said that while the theory may be plausible,
women should not throw away their contraceptives.

Other research has shown that the
Pill, the contraceptive of choice of millions of women not ready to
start a family, may actually make them broodier.

Those who take the Pill find babies cuter than others do, a study found.

The Pill may also affect women’s judgment in other ways.

Previous research suggests that the
hormones in the oral contraceptive suppress a woman’s interest in
masculine men and make boyish ones more attractive.

If the theory is right, it could help
explain the shift in tastes from macho 1950s and 1960s stars such as
Kirk Douglas and Sean Connery to the more androgynous heart-throbs of
today, including the likes of Johnny Depp and Russell Brand.

Dr Roberts has previously shown that
men whose ring fingers are longer than their index fingers are seen as
better bets by women.

By contrast, those seen as ‘wimpier’ sorts will have longer index fingers.

It is thought that exposure to high
levels of testosterone in the womb has a long-lasting effect on ring
finger-length – and on looks.