A Man’s Guide to the Pill

If your wife or girlfriend is on the Pill, it’s possible that you don’t know all that much about it. You know she takes it, and it seems to work—I mean, she hasn’t gotten pregnant, so that’s a good sign. What else is there to know, right?

The Pill isn’t just about her health; it’s your health, too. And we’re not just talking about avoiding parenthood. The Pill can (allegedly) change the way she thinks about you, and whether you’re both having sex as often as you could be.

We took a closer look at some of the recent research, and gathered a panel of experts to separate the fact from the fiction in oral contraceptives.

1. Her boobs might get bigger when she’s on the Pill.

Is It True?

There are no guarantees, but it’s possible. Jonathan Eig, author of The Birth of the Pill, says that just a few years after the Pill’s debut in 1960, bra manufacturers noticed that women’s bust sizes were going up, with sales of C-cup bras rising as much as 50 percent.

That little boost comes from the estrogen and progesterone in some birth control pills.

“Estrogen can cause fluid retention, which can lead to slightly larger breast size,” says Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout.

But the change is usually temporary, and many women’s breasts will return to their original size within a few cycles.

2. The Pill could lower her sex drive.

Is It True?

For some women, absolutely.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, a board-certified ob/gyn and author Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, explains that the Pill “eliminates the mid-cycle surge of testosterone that happens with ovulation.”

Testosterone is what fuels a woman’s libido, so without it, her sex drive could nose dive.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, only about 15 percent of women who are on birth control have noted a decrease in their sex drive. That’s according to a 2013 review in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, which examined 36 studies between 1978 and 2011.

3. Taking the Pill today could make it harder to get pregnant tomorrow.

Is It True?

Not at all. “This is a myth,” says Herbenick. “Most forms of hormonal contraception have no effect on future fertility.”

One exception is Depo Provera, otherwise known as the birth control shot. “Women taking this sometimes take a few months longer, on average, to become pregnant once they stop taking the shot and start trying to conceive,” Herbenick says.

It just boils down to age, says Kristen Jozkowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of community health at the University of Arkansas. “The older a woman gets, the more difficult it will be for her to get pregnant,” she says. “It has nothing to do with the Pill.”

4. When she goes off the Pill, she may find you less attractive.

Is It True?

Potentially true, but don’t take it personally. In other words, it’s not you, it’s her.

In a 2014 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed 48 couples that met while the women were on hormonal birth control, and then examined their relationship post-Pill.

In the majority of cases, after the women stopped using oral contraception, they became less satisfied with their partner’s physical appearance.

Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D. President of the National Center for Health Research in Washington, D.C., says the results make sense. “In a way, it is similar to how attractive a person seems when you are making love to them compared to when you are arguing with them—which would also be influenced by hormones,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean that the moment she gives up birth control, she’s going to look at you and ask herself, “What the hell was I thinking?” The changes are “quite subtle and aren’t cause for alarm,” says Lisa Welling, Ph.D., a psychologist at Oakland University.

5. If she’s on the Pill, you’ll need more lube.

Is It True?

Herbenick says it’s a distinct possibility. Not that your lover isn’t aroused, but that she has an influx of man-made hormones interacting with her own hormones.

“Modern day birth control contains are considered very low-dose estrogen, and estrogen is linked to vaginal lubrication,” she said. “As a result, some women experience less vaginal lubrication when using hormonal contraception, such as the Pill.”

She suggests keeping a water-based lubricant on hand, just in case.

6. The Pill makes her prefer a more macho man.

Is It True?

Unlikely.

A 2003 study at St. Andrews and Stirling universities in Scotland found that women taking the Pill tended to choose macho-looking men with pronounced masculine features such as big cheekbones, jaws and chin, and to rate men with more feminine and softer physical features — which some psychologists say are signs of a sensitive nature that can make a man a better long-term companion —as turnoffs.

An interesting theory, and perhaps we’ll have actual research on it someday. The Scotland study—which examined just 14 men—is far from enough. As Zuckerman explains, “Never believe a study based on 14 men.”

7. The day she starts taking it, you can go condom-free.

Is It True?

The Pill can be a big problem solver for you condom haters out there, but you have to give it time. It doesn’t prevent pregnancies the minute she starts taking it. You need up to a month to be safe.

“It may be wise to double up on birth control by using a condom plus the Pill,” Herbenick advises. “The condom keeps you both protected from STIs and adds extra confidence regarding pregnancy protection.”

8. The Pill makes her mood swings seem a little less swingy.

Is It True?

It all depends on the women, and what her menstrual cycle did to her mood in the first place, pre-Pill.

“Every woman is different, and thus so is her reaction to hormones in the Pill,” says Herbenick. “Some women have increased mood swings on the Pill and it’s a common reason for going off the Pill in the first few months of using. Other women have more stable moods, feel less depressed around their periods, don’t get migraine headaches, all thanks to being on the Pill.”

It’s interesting to note that it’s not medically necessary to take the placebo pills every month. So a woman could theoretically go from month to month without getting her period at all. Herbenick says this is totally fine, but unnecessary. “Years ago it was the only option to skip periods,” she says. “Now there are longer term pills like Seasonique that just let you do that without having to guess on your own or skip or combine.”

According to Eig, those seven good-for-nothing pills at the end of every four-week pack are there because manufacturers thought women would think the Pill was unnatural if they didn’t menstruate.

Without the monthly period, the accompanying PMS might cease to exist as well. But Herbenick notes that some women will still have occasional periods even while using the Pill. “It’s called breakthrough bleeding, and although it’s inconvenient, it’s not a sign of lacking pregnancy prevention. It just means a woman’s body decided it was time to shed the uterine lining.”