Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 276–285 | Cite as

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

  • Gurit E. BirnbaumEmail author
  • Kobi Zholtack
  • Moran Mizrahi
  • Tsachi Ein-Dor
Research Article


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.


Attractive alternatives Contraceptive pills Infidelity Mate choice Menstrual cycle 



This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grants 86/10 and 1210/16 awarded to Gurit E. Birnbaum).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baruch Ivcher School of PsychologyInterdisciplinary Center (IDC) HerzliyaHerzliyaIsrael

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