Does the Pill affect libido by blunting a woman's sense of smell?

October 25, 2001

Italian scientists have confirmed that the Pill appears to affect a woman's sensitivity to smells.

In a study involving 60 non-Pill using women aged 18 to 40 they measured their ability to detect six distinctive substances - anise, musk-ketone, clove, pyridine, citral and ammonia - at three defined times in the menstrual cycle. The testing was done were during the follicular phase (day 5-8), the periovular phase (day 13-16) and the luteal phase (day18-23). The women's sense of smell was most sensitive at the time around ovulation. The research is published today (Friday 26 October) in Human Reproduction.*

The volunteers were then prescribed oral contraceptives - half taking a combination of ethiniloestradiol and gestodene and half taking ethiniloestradiol and desogestrel. After three months' use the women's sensitivity to smell was tested again on days 7, 14 and 21 of the 28-day month.

This time there was no difference in the women's sensitivity to smell between any of the days and the level of sensitivity most nearly matched that of the luteal (pre-menstrual) phase when the women were not taking oral contraceptives.

"This could emphasise the particular nature of the monophasic pills whose hormones are mainly progestative, which is similar to the natural clime of the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle," said Professor Salvatore Caruso of the Department of Gynaecological Science at the Ospedale S. Bambino in Catania.

"Our data seem to show that iatrogenic steroids, such as those contained in oral contraceptives, may affect changes in smell sensitivity. Biologically, odours probably influence reproductive processes in humans and perhaps the notion of concealed ovulation in humans needs rethinking. But, although our data have confirmed the existence of changes in olfactory sensitivity during oral contraceptive use with respect to non-using time, we need to carry out further studies to investigate ways in which smell variations could vary a woman's sexual life."
*A prospective study evidencing rhinomanometric and olfactometric outcomes in women taking oral contraceptives. Human Reproduction Vol. 16. No. 11. pp 2288-2294 S. Caruso, C. Grillo, C.Agnello, L.Maiolino, G.Intelisano, A Serra. University of Catania, Italy.

European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Related Ovulation Articles from Brightsurf:

How an egg cell's "operating manual" sets the stage for fertility
Recently published work from Carnegie's Allan Spradling and Wanbao Niu revealed in unprecedented detail the genetic instructions immature egg cells go through step by step as they mature into functionality.

Sugar promotes sperm longevity in pig reproductive tract
For many livestock species, artificial insemination (AI) is standard. But it can be tricky to achieve success the first time, thanks to variability in ovulation timing across the herd.

A study by TalTech geneticists revealed new potential causes of female infertility
Over the last six years a group of Estonian geneticists led by Associate Professor Agne Velthut-Meikas and a PhD student Ilmatar Rooda from TalTech Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology have studied genes previously associated primarily with female hormone synthesis and ovarian follicle development.

Swamp wallabies conceive new embryo before birth -- a unique reproductive strategy
Reproduction specialists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Germany, and the University of Melbourne, Australia, recently demonstrated that swamp wallabies ovulate, mate and form a new embryo before the birth of the previous offspring.

Corpus luteum cells of cats successfully cultivated and comprehensively characterized
The reproduction of lynxes is highly mysterious. Unlike other wild cats, most lynxes are only receptive for a few days once a year.

Are fertility apps useful?
Researchers at EPFL and Stanford have carried out an analysis of the largest datasets from fertility awareness apps.

A study in scarlet Japanese macaques
Researchers assumed that the red faces in Japanese macaques signaled fertility.

Marijuana and fertility: Five things to know
For patients who smoke marijuana and their physicians, 'Five things to know about ... marijuana and fertility' provides useful information for people who may want to conceive.

Think female race car drivers aren't fit enough? Think again
In the world of racing, the debate on whether women are as fit as men behind the wheel can often become heated.

Annovera birth control vaginal ring effectively prevents unwanted pregnancy, research finds
A recently approved contraceptive vaginal ring -- the first that can be used for an entire year -- is a highly effective birth control method, according to clinical trial data that will be presented Tuesday at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, La.

Read More: Ovulation News and Ovulation Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to