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Partner choice influenced by the pill

12 October 2011

Use of the oral contraceptive pill may influence women’s choice of partners to father their children according to a study published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Those who chose their partner while using the pill found him, on average, less sexually satisfying and attractive during their relationship. But they were more satisfied with his non-sexual support, and stayed with him two years longer, compared to non-users.

The authors say it is likely this happens because, as previous studies have shown, without contraception the hormone cycle causes women to choose more genetically dissimilar and sexually attractive mates around the time they are fertile. Contraception suppresses the hormone cycle, increasing the influence of non-sexual, caring traits which are normally present during the non-fertile parts of the cycle.

The research compared the relationships in an international sample of 2519 women.   The differences between the two groups were statistically significant, after taking into account other factors such as attitudes to sex outside a relationship.

On average, women on the pill will be more likely to select a good dad, say the authors. “Our data provide important evidence that the use of oral contraception has the potential to profoundly influence the outcome of long term relationships”.