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Fertility linked to romance

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Ovulation leads to courtship

We know PMS can be bad, making us crabby and crave salty snacks or sweets. But other days of the month, we're soaring with confidence and open to flirting with every cute guy on the subway. A new study from France says women's fertility, particularly during ovulation, makes us much more receptive to courtship.

Young Couple DancingOpening one-liners can be appealing, depending on the day

"Can I buy you a drink?" "I like the way you dance." "I think I know you." These are common frisky come-ons from men looking to hook up at a club, but do you actually fall for them? You might if you are within the sixth and fourteenth day of your monthly cycle, a study has found. Researchers from the Universite de Bretagne-Sud found that women's sexual interest and behaviors toward men are different across the menstrual cycle. Courtship solicitation — a more refined way of phrasing it — had never been tested before; the results were quite interesting. 

The field experiment involved a survey of 200 single women aged 18 to 25. Over five weeks in three different nightclubs, slow, romantic songs were played twice a night to encourage flirting and other amorous behavior. The women were approached by attractive, 20-year-old strangers who solicited the ladies for their phone number.

When love is in the air, timing is everything

A minute or so after the solicitation, the women were surveyed about their response and information about the number of days since the onset of their last period.

The findings? Women in their fertile phase, when they were ovulating and progesterone levels were at their highest, agreed more favorably to the request than women who were menstruating. In fact, those women who were within the sixth and fourteenth day of their cycle were about 25 percent more likely to say "yes" to the dance request than those who were having their period.

The study, conducted by lead researcher Nicolas Guegen, was published in Biological Psychology in March 2009.

Do you want to dance?

Not a bad gig for the young guys, of course, if they don't mind risking rejection. The male courters were handpicked by 20 women who together determined them to be the most attractive (not a bad job, either). The men were instructed to approach only women who were alone or with other women.

The study explained that the same verbal solicitation was made by the three courters: "Hello. My name's Antoine. Do you want to dance?" -- a phrase used because a previous survey showed that it approximates the magic "formula" commonly used in nightclubs.

If a woman refused, the young man was told to say: "Too bad. Maybe another time?" and then step away. If the woman accepted the invitation, the man explained that she had participated in an experiment. In either case, the young woman was brought to a quieter area of the club and asked to fill out a questionnaire about her current menstrual status.

A matter of biology and rose-colored glasses

The results are supported by other studies that show that a woman in her fertile phase is more likely to express a desire for sex and pay increased attention to sexual stimuli. It's a matter of biology and what researchers call the "rose-tinted spectacle effect" where women find men generally more attractive. Women are programmed to procreate so, at the most fertile time of the month, women are more open to sexual advances.

No surprise then that a 2005 study from the University of Stirling in Scotland showed that women during their fertile phase are most attracted to high-testosterone types such as actor Brad Pitt: masculine-looking men who exude confidence and dominance for good baby-making.

Now that, we can definitely understand.

More on fertility and your periods

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