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Horm Behav. 2013 Mar;63(3):491-6. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Jan 13.

The relationship between oral contraceptive use and sensitivity to olfactory stimuli.

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Psychology Department, Knox College, 2 East South Street, Galesburg, IL 61401-4999, USA.


The present study examined differences in olfactory sensitivity between 16 naturally cycling (NC) women and 17 women taking monophasic oral contraceptives (OCs) to six odors: lemon, peppermint, rose, musk, androstenone and androsterone. Thresholds were assessed twice for both groups of women (during the periovulatory and luteal phases of their cycles) via a forced-choice discrimination task. NC women in the periovulatory phase were significantly more sensitive to androstenone, androsterone, and musk than women taking OCs. These findings give support to odor-specific hormonal modulation of olfaction. Further, due to the social and possibly sexual nature of these odors, future work should address whether there is a relationship between decreased sensitivity to these odors and reported behavioral side effects among women taking OCs.

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