Despite the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCPs) by women, many are not aware that it may impair their ability to recognise others' emotional expressions, which may have serious consequences in interpersonal contexts, suggests a new study.
The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users.
"More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about their effects on emotion, cognition and behaviour," said senior author Alexander Lischke from the University of Greifswald in Germany.
"However, coincidental findings suggest that oral contraceptives impair the ability to recognise emotional expressions of others which could affect the way users initiate and maintain intimate relationships," said Lischke.
To investigate the effects of OCPs on women's emotion recognition, the researchers administered a special emotion recognition task to two similar groups of healthy women: 42 OCP users and 53 non-users.