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Oral Contraceptives Can Affect Woman's Ability To Read Emotions, Study Reveals

Oral Contraceptives Can Affect Woman's Ability To Read Emotions, Study Reveals

A new study from Germany discovered that women who took contraceptive pills could not read emotions as well as women who were not on the pill.

Women have been popping contraceptive pills for several generations now since it was first made available to married women in the UK way back in 1961. While there are no longer rigid norms that make it hard to access, there are still startling discoveries being made. One wonders whether the pill was prematurely launched given the laundry list of side effects that only seems to be growing with every tick of the clock.  A new study from Germany now suggests that women who take contraceptive pills cannot decipher another person's facial cues properly, often leading to misreading emotions. This can now be tacked on to the other troubling consequences of popping the pill including insomnia, weight gain, breast tenderness, nausea, headaches, mood swings, strokes, blood clots, diabetes, breast cancer, and heart attacks to name a few. What other hidden gems are waiting to be found only time will tell. Meanwhile, there are millions of women who have been reduced to lab rats over several decades.

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Even the authors of the study can't help but admit, "More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about the effect on emotion, cognition, and behavior." Fifty years ago, when the pill debuted it was perceived as a means to achieve some sense of liberation for women, giving them some control over their bodies and what they wanted to do with it. So, naturally, it was enthusiastically embraced before it could be properly studied. Being able to have sex and not worry about whether nine months later there would be crying child in their arms turned out to be a great motivator to keep the pill in circulation even after side effects began to multiply. 

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

At the time, many believed the pros of not having to deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy are far greater than the cons that accompanied the possible side effects. Perhaps, many still feel the same way. But tiny ripples of increasing awareness are slowly threatening to change tides. Especially after conversations about how the pill could impact mental health have begun. A BBC One documentary offered eye-opening insights into the topic. Now, with results from the new study suggesting the inability to accurately perceive emotions as a side effect, perhaps some may reconsider the pill.

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Not being able to gauge emotion could greatly reduce the quality of one's personal life and hinder healthy connections between couples. Scientists from the University of Greifswald in Germany are the brains behind the study, whose results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. To arrive at their findings, scientists analyzed 95 healthy women between the ages of 18 and 35.  Of the lot, 42 were on the pill while the other 53 were not. To accurately measure the depth of their emotional perception, scientists devised a specialized method that would require keen observation skills. 

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

The women were shown 37 black-and-white pictures that showed only the area around a person's eyes. Each picture was carefully labeled with prompts that described four different finer emotions like "contempt" or "pride". Of the options provided, only one was the right or as the study says "target" emotion, while the other three were simple "distractors."  As part of the exercise, the participants were required to swiftly choose the emotion they felt best suited the expression with the help of a button. The quick reaction time that was demanded helped scientists arrive at their findings. 

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

And so, it was determined that women who use the pill are less likely to correctly decipher facial expressions when compared to women who stay away from the pill. Senior author of the study,  Dr. Alexander Lischke explained, "If oral contraceptives caused dramatic impairments in women's emotion recognition, we would have probably noticed this in our everyday interactions with our partners. We assumed that these impairments would be very subtle, indicating that we had to test women's emotion recognition with a task that was sensitive enough to detect such impairments."

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Considering the pill's core function involves altering a woman's estrogen and progesterone levels, Dr. Lischke pointed out that it is not surprising that the oral contraception was affecting the ability to recognize emotion too. Though he does admit that much work remains to be done before determining other parameters that could be at play, like the type of pill being used, the period of use and what time of the day it is consumed. He also mentioned that both groups "were equally good at recognizing easy expressions" but`when it came to the tougher ones, "the oral contraceptive pill users were less likely to correctly identify difficult expressions." He also stated that women need to be provided "with more detailed information about the consequences of oral contraceptive use," a thought many would agree with.  

Source: iStock
Source: iStock
Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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