Many millennial women spend an important part of their adult life taking oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills can help control acne, intense periods and endometriosis, and also reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. But those small pills can also cause difficult side effects for some women, such as weight gain, anxiety and high blood pressure. And this month, a new study from the University of Greifswald in Germany discovered something more than we should worry about: birth control pills may be erasing their emotional recognition.
The new study, just published in Borders in neuroscience, is based on previous research on the psychological consequences of taking oral contraceptives. We already know that women who take oral contraceptives tend to choose men different from those they would take if they were not taking the pills, and birth control can significantly affect the mood of some women. But this new study goes a step further by questioning how oral contraceptives affect our social and emotional intelligence.
In the new study, researchers analyzed two similar groups of healthy women between 18 and 35 years old, some who used oral contraceptives and others who did not. At first, the researchers found no dramatic psychological differences between the two groups of women.
"If oral contraceptives caused dramatic alterations in the recognition of women's emotions, we would probably have noticed this in our daily interactions with our partners," said the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander Lischke, in a press release. "We assumed that these deficiencies would be very subtle, which would indicate that we should try to recognize the emotion of women with a task that was sensitive enough to detect such deficiencies, so we used a very challenging task of emotional recognition. which required the recognition of complex emotional expressions of the ocular region of the faces ".
Lischke's team discovered that both groups were equally good at recognizing black and white facial expressions on a computer during a test of emotional recognition. However, women who took oral contraceptives were on average 10 percent worse than non-users when interpreting emotions when facial expressions became more complex. In other words, women who use oral contraceptives were more likely to misinterpret social cues related to recognizing more nuanced and complicated emotions. They had an especially difficult time of difficulty to read. negative Facial expressions, according to the study.
What could be causing this subtle difference? It has to do with the hormones that manipulate these contraceptives. Hormones are chemicals that carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body, and help control and regulate basic human functions such as eating and sleeping, as well as more complex processes such as your emotions and mood. According to Lischke and her team, all women experience natural and cyclical variations of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone levels throughout the month. More importantly, during certain periods of your menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels reach higher levels that push you to be more emotionally attuned to others. (Evolutively, it is useful for you to be more aware of another person's emotions, especially those of your partner, at a time when you are more fertile). But oral contraceptives generally suppress levels of estrogen and progesterone. Without the normal levels of these hormones in your system, some women may have difficulty interpreting complex emotional signals.
This is a subtle but important finding, according to Lischke, although he said that more research is needed to assess whether contraceptive pills actually make it difficult for women to initiate and maintain intimate relationships. If that is the case, we all want to take additional measures to evaluate the pros and cons of using oral contraceptives. And no matter what, you should always spend time researching birth control methods before choosing one (there are many alternatives without pills!) And consult with a medical professional before deciding which birth control option is best for you.