Skip to main content

Have you ever wondered why your memory of certain events is so different than everyone else's? Researchers have discovered that your birth control may be to blame.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, have found that hormonal contraception, such as birth control pills, can alter women's memories. These medications don't harm their ability to remember, the researchers emphasize. Rather, women on birth control appear better able to recall the emotional impact of an event, while those not using contraceptives are better at recalling details.

"It's a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit," graduate researcher Shawn Nielsen said in a press release.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Nielsen and neurobiologist Larry Cahill said the findings fall in line with previous research on how sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, affect memory. These hormones have been linked with strong "left brain" memory, or analytical memory, but they are suppressed with the use of birth control. In effect, the latest findings suggest women on contraceptives may remember emotional events more like men do, relying on the right hemispheres of their brain, associated with intuition, to encode memory. (If you've always suspected men remember events in broad strokes, but not the details, the research suggests you may be right.)

The study examined how women using hormonal contraceptives remembered a car accident, compared with women who were not using contraception. All were shown photographs of a mother, her son and the car accident, and were told a story about what happened. Asked about what they remembered a week later, the women who had been using hormonal contraceptives clearly recalled the main series of events, such as the fact that the son had been rushed to hospital and that doctors worked to save his life. The women who were not using contraceptives remembered more details, such as the presence of a fire hydrant next to the car.

The researchers suggest these findings may contribute to explaining how men and women remember things differently.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies