Is the Pill in Control of Your Romance?

"The interest that science and the community at large has had with female sexual health has changed over the last couple of years," she said.

But while Boyle would love to know whether the pill could influence who we settle down and marry, she doubted whether any studies could prove the connection.

"You could extrapolate from the pill, but the women who use birth control have other biases -- their education levels, their communication skills," said Boyle. "It's really interesting … but because it's such a difficult thing to study, it hasn't been something that we would discuss with patients who are going to start the pill."

Would a Genetically Similar Mate be Humanity's Downfall?

One of the most controversial, and most pressing arguments for studying the pill's effects on mate selection was the impact on future generations.

A few small studies in the published review found a genetic difference between the men women find attractive during a natural cycle, and the men women found attractive while on the pill. Women on the pill found men who were more genetically similar to themselves more attractive, while women who were off the pill found men who were genetically dissimilar more attractive.

Animal studies have shown that genetically similar mates have a harder time producing offspring, and the offspring they do produce are less fertile in turn.

But Dr. William Hurd, a fertility expert at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center, was suspicious of the jump from the animal kingdom to modern problems with infertility.

"In the human world, infertility from genetic similarity has not been found to be true, even though people have suspected it," said Hurd. "Doctors tried for years -- they thought that recurrent miscarriages were related to genetic similarity, but they couldn't find an example."

Hurd said doctors used to test infertile couples to see if they were HLA compatible -- a genetic similarity on blood cells that can determine if a person is a match in organ transplants. However, the HLA testing proved unhelpful to treating fertility.

Hurd was also suspicious about the leap from small studies asking which person you find attractive in a picture, and asking which person you would choose for a life partner.

"This study really didn't even touch that. This study didn't even talk about selection of a mate, they talk about preferences," said Hurd.

"I would venture to guess that the changes within our interpersonal relationships would influence future mating patterns -- think about how online dating has changed who we pick to date," said Hurd. "You're picking a person online."

Birth Control and Dating: A Loaded Issue

As Penn noted, research may be done for scientific reasons, but that doesn't mean its potential use would end there.

"The article did a very good job of putting together the evidence and making the case that something might be going on that we should be concerned about," he said.

However, he continued, "The pill's effects on mate choice should not be exploited by those who want to see the pill go away for political or religious reasons. There's really a lot of benefits of the pill to be considered."

Despite those concerns he said -- that research on the pill might be used in an attempt to take it away -- he said research needed to be done to give women a better way of evaluating their decision to use contraception.

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