A University of Catania study found that women who did not take the pill had the most sensitive sense of smell around the time of ovulation. But, after just three months of going on the pill, women showed no increased sense of smell at the time they were most fertile. This may seem inconsequential at first (if not a good thing for those who live with the environmental stink of urban, industrial, and agricultural areas). But, when we think about how smell is tied in with sexual desire, the effects are alarming. Jill Blakeway, a renowned New York-based acupuncturist and author of Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido, says that this could potentially lead us to pick the wrong mate. Indeed, another study by the University of New Mexico showed that when women were on the pill and most fertile, they showed no particular preference of the smell of men with symmetrical features vs. asymmetrical features, while those not on the pill clearly chose the scent of men with symmetrical features.
Researchers at Duke University recently pooled data from 24 studies to further confirm what the FDA declared in 1988: Those who use the pill are 27% less likely to develop ovarian cancer, and the longer a woman uses the pill, the more protection she is likely to receive from ovarian cancer. Another form of cancer that the pill is thought to combat? Endometrial cancer, which affects the uterine lining. Dr. Bradley Goldberg, a Georgia-based OB/GYN who wrote about benefits of the pill in the Los Angeles Times, cites the following research: Women who use the pill for at least two years cut risk of endometrial cancer by 40%.
It Lowers Testosterone Levels.
This might sound desirable in an I-don’t-want-an-Adam’s-apple kind of way, but according to Dr. Sara Gottfried, a Berkeley-based M.D. and the author of The Hormone Cure, women need testosterone. When testosterone levels drop, some women on the pill (about 5%) feel pain when having sex and others (about 25%) experience vaginal dryness and decreased sex drive. “The travesty there is that when you’re 22 and you have vaginal dryness, it doesn’t make any sense,” Gottfried says. “They think, ‘I’m not menopausal. What’s going on?’ These women feel like they’re doing something wrong.”
It Can Mask Reproductive Problems.
Blakeway says that many of the women she treats for infertility only discover reproductive issues, such as imbalanced hormone levels or irregular periods, after having gone off the pill. While the problem may not have been caused by the pill, it often remains an unknown for the years a woman is taking oral contraception. Blakeway also points to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as an increasingly common issue for women that is also masked while on the pill. “People often get put on the pill to regulate periods, but what they’re not doing is solving the underlying issues. The cycle the pill creates give women a false sense of security and stops them from getting help for issues such as PCOS,” she says.