How Contraceptive Pills Affect Women's Emotions

Anushika Srivastava
Feb 13, 2019 06:43 IST
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Amidst an attempt to control population, contraceptive pills have been widely used for more than 50 years. Approximately 80% of fertile women use this form of contraception, according to data from the NCBI as on October 2014. Also, birth control pills assure 99.99 per cent success in preventing pregnancy while condoms are only 82 per cent successful, one of the reasons why contraceptive pills are used this widely. But what about the side effects women have to go through, while using contraceptive pills?


Birth Control Pills And Their Effect On Emotions

"The birth control pills are a double edged sword. On one hand, they have efficacy better than most of the available birth control options, on the other, they present serious side effects.They can lead to changes in menstrual cycle like abnormal bleeding, excessive bleeding, obesity and decreased sexual desire.These changes affect a woman's mental health. She might feel depressed, lethargic and stressed," says Dr Renu Singh, a Kanpur-based gynaecologist and obstetrician.

Apart from the many known negative side effects of contraceptive pills, a new research shows that contraceptive pills may affect how women perceive emotions in others.


According to the research by Alexander Lischke, a psychology researcher with the University of Greifswald in Germany, contraceptive pills impair the ability to recognize a second person's emotions, which in turn has serious consequences on interpersonal contexts

The research states-

  • 42 women taking contraceptive pills and 53 women who didn't were tested for differences in recognizing complex emotional expressions.
  • Whether these differences would depend on a woman's menstrual cycle phase was also tested.
  • The women who used contraceptive pills (CPs), were less accurate in recognizing a second person's emotions. Moreover, these did not depend on a woman's menstrual cycle phase.

Connection Between CPs And Brain

"Birth Control pills normally work by dampening the fluctuations in  naturally occurring hormones -- estrogen and progestin -- to prevent pregnancy. These hormones prevent sperm from fertilizing egg by stopping ovulation. However, these birth control hormones reach the portion of brain that regulates emotions," says gynaecologist Nirmala Gupta.

In another research by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), it has been discovered that CPs can possibly result in thinning of two different regions of the brain, thereby altering their functions. However, uncertainty still prevails as to whether the effects remain or not after the woman goes off the pill.


To see if the hormones altered the brain processing, the participants were shown photos of black and white eyes. Where normal emotions like hostility was concerned, all the participants performed similarly. However, for more obscure options and more hard-to-characterize emotions, women using pills on a daily basis were just 55 per cent correct as compared to those (65%) who didn't use CPs.

Female Condoms- A Possible Alternative To CPs

"Birth control pills are hormonal preparations that not only affect conception but also have adverse effects on the body unlike barrier methods like condoms, although they have better efficacy. The intake of pills slowly change the hormonal cycle in a woman, and their abrupt withdrawal can lead to adverse effects. Birth control pills should be taken according to the course prescribed and emergency contraceptives should be relied upon less often," adds Dr Renu Singh.


Female Condoms do not have any effect on male or female reproductive system, plus they are of no harm, i.e., they do not have any side effect except to the people who are allergic to latex. It acts as a physical barrier, preventing the transfer of semen to the vagina. Not only does a female condom minimize the risk of unintentional pregnancy but it also helps protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Read More: How Many Women Know Their Contraceptives Well? Do You?

Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv

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