REVIEW: This Is Your Brain on Birth Control

The subtitle of this book, “The surprising science of women, hormones, and the law of unintended consequences,” is a perfect description of what you will find inside. 

For years, I have been aware of the harmful effects—physical, psychological, and moral—of the birth control pill, so I was excited to read this book because the evidence presented is based solely on science and clinical findings rather than on Church teaching. The reader should not go into this expecting to hear about religion, as the author advocates for the ability of women to choose whether they want to use the pill. However, the importance of this book cannot be underestimated. Dr. Hill is a psychologist who has conducted years of research on hormonal birth control. What she found is astounding and has far-reaching consequences for both women and men. Her purpose in writing this book is to give women the tools they need to determine for themselves if the “benefits” outweigh the risks.

Always fascinated by science, I dove into this book ready to learn. And learn I did! Dr. Hill does a fantastic job of presenting the science in a readable way so that even laypeople can understand. She explains the way women’s hormones work, how natural hormones affect different parts of the body, and how synthetic hormones often wreak havoc on women’s bodies.

The author warns: “Changing women’s hormones changes women. . . . You are a different person on the birth control pill than you are when you’re off the pill.”

She sums up the dangers in just a couple sentences when she says: “The research suggests that [the pill] probably has a hand in women’s mate preferences, our sensitivity to smells, our relationship satisfaction, the functioning of our stress response, the activities of multiple neurotransmitter systems, the activities of multiple hormones, our moods, our persistence in difficult tasks, our ability to learn and remember, and our sex drive. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.”

This is a book everyone—men and women—should read. As the book states, women are different people on and off the pill. Studies suggest that women even have different preferences regarding the type of men they are attracted to when they’re on the pill. Men, you don’t want to wake up one day and realize that the woman you married is no longer interested in you because she stopped taking birth control. And, women, you owe it to yourself to learn how your body works and how birth control affects every part of how you think and feel. 

Overall, I found this book fascinating. It’s certainly not in line with Catholic teaching, but there’s no denying the science behind the negative effects of hormonal contraception. And if that isn’t compelling enough to stay off the pill, I don’t know what is.

This Is Your Brain on Birth Control by Sarah E. Hill, PhD; Penguin Random House LLC; 2019; 320 pages; $27.00 (Hardcover) 

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About the author

Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine and executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program.