“Since oral contraceptives work by suppressing oestrogen and progesterone levels, it makes sense that oral contraceptives also affect women’s emotion recognition,” he explains.
“However, the exact mechanism underlying oral contraceptive induced changes in women’s emotion recognition remains to be elucidated.”
Reading facial expressions is a crucial part of human relationships and one of the only signals we have about the feelings and intentions of others.
The question is: are these observed impairments powerful enough to cause interpersonal difficulties for women? We still need a lot more research to tell – specifically studies with larger sample sizes, harder tasks, and extended time spans.
“We do not know yet whether [oral contraceptive-related] impairments in emotion recognition have serious consequences on women’s social life,” Lischke told ScienceAlert.
“We know that women who are suffering from mental disorders like, for example, borderline personality disorder or major depressions, show marked impairments in emotion recognition that account for their interpersonal difficulties. However, the impairments these women show are far more pronounced than the impairments that we observed in women that were using [oral contraceptives].”
There’s still so much we don’t know, and that alone seems like a pretty good reason for more research.
This study has been published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.