Summary: Hormonal Contraceptive Pill May Affect Mate Choice


  • Monthly hormonal cycling in women and the resulting biological attraction to genetic dissimilar men has been suggested to bring evolutionary benefits in terms of reproductive success in humans.  Fertile women are more attracted to men who are masculine and genetically unlike themselves.  Men are more attracted to women who are ovulating than to those who are not.

    A 2009 published review of past research reports that oral contraceptive use may affect how women and men choose mates and the resulting human reproductive outcomes.  By altering hormonal cycles in women, women and men are affected in their biological responses to the opposite sex.  This could mean they will choose less “desirable” partners biologically and that could hinder successful reproduction in the future and possibly affect long- term relationships.  Since large segments of women worldwide take the birth control pill, more studies are needed to answer these questions.

     When fertility is at its maximum mid-cycle, a woman will find attractive and want to mate with men that have more masculine qualities who are not similar to her genetically.  Women taking the Pill are in a state that mimics pregnancy and will have not have these hormonal shifts.  When a woman is not fertile, she will be attracted to men who are more like her genetically as she is looking for those men who she thinks would be more supportive of childrearing. 

    Researchers are asking if this trend can affect the health of offspring from genetically similar partners.  Time taken to conceive, pre-eclampsia incidence and reduced birth weights are areas that could be affected.  Researchers are also asking if women on the pill, when they choose a mate or who start or stop the pill during a relationship, are affected in their desire or preference for their partners and if that affects the relationship.

    Since the known effects deal with short term (during the cycle) mate preferences, research doesn’t answer the question of whether hormonal use will affect long-term relationships, durability, satisfaction, the ability of the couple to reproduce and the reproductive success of offspring.1

1  Alvergne et al. Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans? Trends in Ecology and Evolution, October 2009

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