Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Makhanova, Anastasia

Committee Member/Reader

Pare, Adam

Committee Member/Second Reader

Walker, Kate

Committee Member/Third Reader

Plavcan, Mike


The term “stress” refers to a person’s psychological and physiological response to the demands and pressures of the world around them (Farlex, 2021). Past research has shown that stress can have negative side effects on a person’s well-being (Aneshensel et al., 1991; Wunsch et al., 2017; Michie, 2002). Although people experience stress, some people perceive more stress than others. Perceptions are important because the way one understands certain conditions can elicit distinct emotional and physiological responses (Kemeny, 2003). An important factor that has not received a lot of attention is women’s use of hormonal contraceptives. In the United States, 24.4% of women aged 15-49 are currently using hormonal contraceptives and of those women 14% are using oral contraceptives (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Past research has begun to link hormonal contraceptive use to changes in women’s physiological processes unrelated to reproductive function. One particular study examined the differences in the salivary cortisol response to psychosocial stress by comparing women who were using hormonal contraceptives to women who were naturally cycling (Roche et al., 2013). One limitation of this prior research is that it considered all oral contraceptive users as a single group. In my research I broke down oral contraceptive users into four distinct groups based on the type of progestin, also known as generation of progestin, the oral contraceptive contains. This led me to my current research question: Is there a difference in perceived stress levels among women taking one of the four generations of contraceptive pills and naturally cycling women? Women were directed to an online study and completed an informed consent. Then they completed a variety of measures. The specific stress index I used is the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) which is a 10-item questionnaire that is widely used to assess stress levels in people 12 years and older (Cohen et al., 1983). To test my hypothesis if there is a difference in stress levels between the women taking one of the four generations of contraceptive pills compared to the naturally cycling women. I used a one-way ANOVA test to look at the differences in the means between the five groups. My one-way ANOVA test did not find differences between the groups, F(4,600) = 1.22, p = .301. Although my results were not significant past research has shown that hormonal contraceptives can have mental and physical effects on women.


birth control, social perceptions, hormonal contraceptives, progestins, naturally cycling, stress