Could the Birth Control Pill be Interfering with our Attraction to Others?

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We all know the birth control pill alters the levels of hormones in your body, but did you know that the pill may actually alter how attracted you are to your partner?

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that women who use oral contraceptives may change who they find good looking, or who they find most attractive.

The study looked at 70 heterosexual couples for one year and an additional 48 heterosexual couples during four years of marriage. The researchers asked the couples about their birth control use and their marital and sexual satisfaction. They also asked impartial judges to rate the attractiveness of the husbands’ faces based on photographs.

The researchers found that the women who started their relationships while on the pill became less satisfied with their relationship after they stopped taking it, but only if their husbands had scored low in attractiveness. In contrast, the women who married the men who were ranked higher in attractiveness were more satisfied in their relationships after they stopped oral contraceptives.

Although this information is interesting, and the researchers were able to control for many factors that might affect women’s marital satisfaction ( ie if she was pregnant or her husband’s satisfaction in the marriage) Study leader Michelle Russell still warns that the study’s design makes it hard to prove that the hormones were the direct cause of the change in satisfaction.

This research however, is similar to previously published results on hormonal pills and attraction.

We know that the type of man a woman is drawn to is known to change during her monthly cycle, when a woman is fertile, for instance, she might look for a man with more masculine features. Taking the pill or another type of hormonal contraceptive seems to change this natural dynamic, making less-masculine men seem more attractive, according to a small but growing body of evidence. The findings have led researchers to wonder about the implications for partner choice, relationship quality and even the health of the children produced by these partnerships.

Researchers have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates. One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the “T-shirt study”, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts. The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors known as pheromones.

Studies have also shown that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune-system genes known as MHC. Scientists believe that children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more viruses and bacteria.

These natural preferences appear to be wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown. Females on the pill no longer experience an increased desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation. Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears. And men no longer exhibit changes in interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, possibly because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.

All forms of birth control come with advantages and disadvantages, however if you are concerned about possible side effects of using hormonal contraceptives talk to your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor about other options for birth control.

In Health,

Dr. Emily Lipinski

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5 Dietary Recommendations for Enhancing Fertility

a921b1a5953616fa7b1e415200b149c7.jpg_srz_p_697_723_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzPreparing for pregnancy can involve preparing financially, spiritually, physically and nutritionally.  Whether you are having difficulty conceiving or are consciously preparing for pregnancy, diet is very important.  What we eat can influence fertility, affect hormones and later, affect the fetus.  More and more woman are wishing to be pregnant at later stages of life. As our fertility peaks in our early 20s and begins declining in our late 20’s, many woman who are 30 plus often are interested in foods that can boost their chances of conceiving. (May I add that woman who choose to wait for babies can still have very healthy and happy pregnancies !! ) So without further ado please find my top 5 dietary recommendations for fertility:

  • Eat Organic as much as possible a year before conceiving.  Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and therefore harmful to humans. Children are actually four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults. Many toxins used in pesticides are also known hormone disruptors. Some of the chemicals that are used in pesticides are fat soluble, meaning that they can be stored in our fat cells for long periods of time.  Therefore it is best to avoid these chemicals as long as possible before becoming pregnant to minimize the exposure of the growing fetus to these toxins found on conventional produce.

  • Increase consumption of nutritious seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Nutritional deficiencies of zinc and B6 can affect fertility. Sunflower seeds are a good source of B6 and other trace minerals and pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of zinc amongst other minerals.  You can add these seeds to cereals, salads or even buy (pumpkin or sunflower) seed butter and spread it on toast.

  • Make you sure your iron intake is adequate.  The best way to find out if your iron levels are high enough is to have your ferritin levels measured through blood.  Ferritin levels lower than 70 can decrease fertility and can also lead to anemia throughout pregnancy.  Red meat is the best source of iron (opt for grass fed, organic). Dark leafy green veggies, beans, legumes and molasses also are higher in iron and cooking in a cast iron pan can also increase the iron levels of the foods that are cooked in them. Some individuals, despite their best nutritional efforts still have low iron and need to take an iron supplement.

  • Eat a diet rich in omega 3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats are great for the brain, help to balance hormones and also lead to better birth outcomes for the baby.  Aim for 2-3 servings of low mercury fish (sardines, anchovies and mackerel are best), chia seeds, flax and walnuts and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil daily.  Make sure the fish oil has been third party tested for mercury and other heavy metals and the source of the fish is from mackerel, anchovies and/or sardines.  

  • Aim to eat low- medium glycemic index carbohydrates. When we consume carbohydrates they are broken down into sugars that provides energy to our cells. Some carbohydrates break down into more sugars than others and these certain carbohydrates can affect our insulin levels, thus affecting our hormones.  Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates such as rice bran and other whole grains and bright coloured vegetables. Avoid high glycemic index foods such as refined sugars, white breads, white rice and white pastas.

 In Health,

Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND