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New study reveals the contraceptive pill’s impact on memory
Illustration Marianne Wilson

Turns out texting your ex might be a side effect of the pill

New research reveals that women on birth control are more likely to forget negative emotional experiences

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, particularly when it comes to bad relationships. It allows you to see your ex for what they really are (trash), and stop you texting ‘u up?’ days after the break up. But for women on the pill, it turns out this hindsight might be clouded as a new study reveals birth control makes you less likely to remember negative emotional experiences.

According to Psychological Reports, another side effect of the pill – including fucking up your mental health (cool!) – is viewing past situations as more positive than they might have actually been. 

The study asked 58 women on birth control, 40 women not taking oral contraceptives, and 37 men to complete an emotional spatial memory test. The participants viewed a selection of ‘emotionally-charged’ and ‘emotionally-neutral’ items set up on a tray, before being asked to list as many as they could remember, including where they had been placed. Participants then completed the same test one week later.

The findings reveal that women on the pill tended to recall more positive items than negative when compared to non-users in the short-term recall test, while the long-term test showed no significant difference.

The study’s co-author Kirsten Oinonen told PsyPost the results show that “women taking the pill (view) situations, people, or objects as more positive than they might have if they were not taking the pill (i.e. because they are relatively more likely to remember the positive versus the negative information).”

It’s already common knowledge that the pill can gravely impact your mood, but the study is one of the first to expand on its effect on memory (following previous research in 2011). Given the small sample size, and the fact the long-term test didn’t flag any key differences, the study has its limitations.

“Any new research finding needs to be replicated before it can be accepted with confidence”, Oinonen continued. “As we looked at memory for visual stimuli, future studies should examine if women also show a tendency to recall less negative verbal, olfactory (smell), auditory, and kinesthetic stimuli.”

It’s an interesting development in a field that still needs a lot of work. Aside from the TBC male contraceptive pill – the ultimate revolution – researchers have been regularly releasing new methods of birth control, including contraceptive jewellery, a six-month patch, and a year-long silicone ring. With this new study revealing even more side effects of the pill, here’s hoping more alternative options continue to pop up.