Birth Control Pill Affects HOW Women Remember Emotional Events

According to a recent study at UCI, "Women on the pill, who have lower levels of hormones associated with female reproduction, may remember emotional events similarly to men." In the study, when given the narrative of a traumatic car crash, women who were on the pill remembered the events similarly to how men remembered it; ie. they remembered the "gist" of the event while women NOT on the pill remembered more details.

"Men typically rely more on right-hemisphere brain activity to encode memory. They retain the gist of things better than details."

Does this mean being on the pill makes a woman think like a man? The researchers agreed that:

"the findings could help lead to fuller answers about why women experience post traumatic stress syndrome more frequently than men, and how men remember differently than women."

“What’s most exciting about this study is that it shows the use of hormonal contraception alters memory,” UCI graduate researcher Shawn Nielsen said. “There are only a handful of studies examining the cognitive effects of the pill, and more than 100 million women use it worldwide.”

She stressed that the medications did not damage memory. “It’s a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit.”

Frankly, I think this study is completely fascinating for several reasons which I want to explore in a couple blog posts:

  1. My personal experience on the Pill (this post)
  2. The scary long-term implications of women losing their emotional/detail-oriented memory (another post)

I'll start with my own experience.

Since being on the pill, my own symptoms of PTSD and Post-Partum Depression have been significantly reduced. It's hard for me to say whether this is entirely because of the pill. But I can't deny that the pill has definitively aided in balancing my whacked-out female hormones, regulated my periods--both of which have made me saner, calmer and better able to handle life.

That said, I really do NOT want the pill to be my long-term solution to hormonal imbalances. Especially if it means my emotional memory is being affected! My emotional memory makes me ME!

Then again, I gotta be's been nice NOT to remember every.single.tiny.detail about every single emotional event. Being THAT sensitive is a burden.

Being on the pill has helped ease back the sharp edge of intense, almost photographic memory that I've had my entire life. The thing is, it's not just that I can recall tiny details of emotional events, it's that these recalls are also deeply FELT--to the point of overwhelm.

It's not that I want to lose that kind of memory, but sometimes it can be debilitating--especially since I'm already an ENFP. I feel things so intensely as it is, that having whacked out hormones IN ADDITION to my personality type is totally overwhelming.

I could literally spend ALL my energy just trying to stabilize my emotions. Being on the pill helps turn down the emotional noise--does that make sense? I still feel deeply, but it doesn't incapacitate me. See the difference?

The way my body works, here's the pro/con breakdown of being OFF the pill:

  1. Start having extreme periods (bad)
  2. extreme flip-flopping sex drive--super intense or totally flat (sometimes good, sometimes horrible)
  3. experience life in a very intense, emotionally overwhelming way (sometimes good, sometimes bad)
  4. start having intense nightmares, PTSD symptoms again (bad)

And here's the pro/con breakdown of being ON the pill:

  1. Regulated periods (good)
  2. Minimal PMS (good)
  3. Regulated sex drive (mostly good, sometimes annoying--ha!)
  4. Feeling saner (good!)
  5. Less prone to depressive thoughts (good!)
  6. Better able to manage life with five children (good!)
  7. Remember less emotional details (bad--maybe)

OK! I think that pretty much sums up the most TMI post I've ever written! (I fully expect 20 unsubscribe emails by noon!).

What are your thoughts? Does it bother you that the Pill affects how a woman remembers emotional events? Is this counterbalanced by the positive effects of the Pill? What are some of the ethical/moral implications to consider? I'd love to hear from you (friendly, civil discussion please!) before I write more on this....DISCUSS!

[DISCLAIMER!!! in case you aren't sure what I mean by friendly, civil discussion.....anyone who accuses me or other women for being bad Catholics because we're on the pill for medical reasons will probably be deleted. Unless you're nice. And send bags of Mint Milanos.]

[SECOND NOTE: I understand NFP. Thanks.]

[THIRD NOTE: I have five children. Clearly I believe in procreative sex. :D]

[FOURTH NOTE: in lieu of nice comments, bags of Mint Milanos are welcome. Oh, wait. I already said that. Ahem.]