The Bitter Pill: Cessation of Oral Contraceptives Enhances the Appeal of Alternative Mates

Gurit E. Birnbaum, Kobi Zholtack, Moran Mizrahi, Tsachi Ein-Dor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Hormonal contraceptives change women’s natural mate preferences, leading them to prefer nurturing but less genetically compatible men. Cessation of contraceptives reverses these preferences, decreasing women’s attraction to current partners. Two studies examined whether women who had used contraceptive pills at relationship formation and stopped doing so were more vulnerable to desire attractive alternatives, primarily around ovulation, as compared to women who had not used pills at relationship formation or had used pills then but did not stop using them. In Study 1, participants watched videos of attractive and average-looking men and described imaginary dates with them, which were coded for desire expressions. In Study 2, we measured attention adhesion to attractive and average-looking men. Results showed that women who stopped using pills and were currently in high-fertility phase were especially likely to attend to, and express desire for, attractive alternatives, suggesting that cessation of contraceptives motivates the pursuit of more suitable mates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-285
Number of pages10
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Attractive alternatives
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Infidelity
  • Mate choice
  • Menstrual cycle


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