Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hare-brained idea of the day

I'm a total non-biologist, but I'm just putting this idea out there.

My understanding is that a woman's sense of smell allows her to figure out who is a good immune match --- men who smell good to her have complementary immune function and she would have healthier children with them. Oral contraceptives (OCs) interfere with this function so that a woman on OCs might marry someone who isn't genetically complementary and doesn't smell good to her after she goes off them. The number of women who chose their husbands while taking oral contraceptives has increased enormously since their invention. I wonder whether this has any social or medical implications: are the children of women who met their husbands while taking OCs less healthy in some way? Are these couples more likely to get divorced?

Anyone know any research on this idea?

1 comment:

Hal said...

I do recall only a bit of information about this; the research I recall seeing was about the MHC locus, not Rh factor.

However, I'm not aware of research linking sociology to the genetics. There's plenty of speculation that the divorce rate is at least tangentially related due to the exponential increase in OC use. However, this requires a few things: 1) That you buy into the idea of pheremones in human interactions, which is a somewhat controversial thing, and 2) that the preferences are static. The research generally indicates that this changes once a woman starts having children, so it might not even be a factor if the couple has had children.

My $0.02 as a biologist with vague knowledge of the topic.