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Does Your Birth Control Diminish Your Sex Drive?

Does Your Birth Control Diminish Your Sex Drive?

It’s ironic that when most doctors prescribe hormonal contraceptives for women, they don’t take the sexual side effects into account, even though presumably most heterosexual women are not taking the pill just to clear up their complexion (despite what birth control ads may tell you).

But despite the fact that in addition to preventing pregnancy, hormonal contraceptives reduce PMS and lessen the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer over a long period of time, they can also have a damaging effect on women’s sex drive.  This is because most of these contraceptives contain both progestin and estrogen.  Progestin can cause decreased vaginal lubrication, and unsurprisingly, delicate hormonal balances can be thrown off by increased estrogen.

According to Ricki Pollycove, writing for the Huffington Post, “Hormonal contraceptive-related effects can include lowered mood (depression) and decreased sexual fantasy, fewer sexy dreams, blunted physical responses to arousal and even delay or inhibit orgasm itself.”

So although hormonal contraceptives an incredible amount to liberate female sexuality by preventing pregnancy, it can also cause sexual dysfunction, which most women won’t connect to their birth control.  It’s something important for women to consider and to discuss with their doctors.  Luckily, there are a wide range of contraceptives for women to choose from (IUDs, pills with various combinations of hormones, patches, rings, and injectable contraceptives), and although we obviously shouldn’t change contraceptives on a whim, recognizing that this might be an issue is crucial to choosing the right birth control.

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63 comments

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1:42AM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

being on the pill made me depressed, angry and temperamental..if you look online so many women are complaining about the side effects of birth control pills, and we all have the same complaint - all the doctors had assured them that the side effects were "mild"..i wish that more women can be informed about how the pill can affect their mental health and that doctors would stop downplaying these symptoms.

3:56PM PST on Feb 11, 2011

YES! how frustrating! I finally feel like a woman again having given up on birth control. I have pledged to learn about my body and understand what it means to be a woman with such a precious gift. Nothings full proof but statistically you only have a 20% chance of getting pregnant if you are a young healthy sexually active woman using no method of contraception. That means by simply being you are 80% likely to not get pregnant, that combined with natural fertility awareness i am prepared for the miracle of life if I am chosen for it.

10:26PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

My life companion and I used a variety of birth control methods. Both times she tried the pill, she was negatively affected. Now that we've had two children, I've had a vasectomy, and that is the best birth control of all -- full pleasure, complete spontaneity, and no risk of forgetting.

3:29PM PST on Jan 14, 2011

Personally i think the pill is horrible. It not only decreases your sex drive but it messes with your moods and emotions, raises your chances of breast cancer, strokes and blood clots, among other things. I stopped using the pill and i feel so much better in myself, i feel normal again. And i also found this great thing called a LadyComp, which is a fertility monitor(expensive, but so worth it) all you do is take your temp every morning and it works out when you can and can't have sex. It really works and it's amazing to be hormone free. I think every woman should know about LadyComp! =]

6:35PM PST on Jan 12, 2011

Noted...thanx

4:48PM PST on Jan 11, 2011

Travis, for anyone who takes birth control or any kind of prescribed medication, I think side affects are just common knowledge. Before I begin taking anything I read the information on it and know the side affects and what can happen as a result. As a responsible adult, I think many of us do this. And no one is saying people who take birth control are surprised by side affects that are clearly printed on the package.

What's surprising in this case is that the thing that one would imagine would boost the amount of sex women are able to have is actually preventing it. I think this is more a case of womens pleasure from sex being taken seriously when for so long it was a myth. And I'd like to add, that no where on any birth control I've taken does it say a side affect is lowered sex drive.

The pill was a big deal when it first came out, but maybe it still needs some retooling is all.Maybe it's the case of wanting to have our cake and eat it to, but considering the importance placed on male pleasure, I think it's about time women can do that.

I find it odd you come to place a like this and berate women, I find your comments very misogynistic and ignorant. How dare we want to have as pleasurable a sex life as men have without having to worry about having children.

4:45PM PST on Jan 11, 2011

Travis, for anyone who takes birth control or any kind of prescribed medication, I think side affects are just common knowledge. Before I begin taking anything I read the information on it and know the side affects and what can happen as a result. As a responsible adult, I think many of us do this. And no one is saying people who take birth control are surprised by side affects that are clearly printed on the package.

What's surprising in this case is that the thing that one would imagine would boost the amount of sex women are able to have is actually preventing it. I think this is more a case of womens pleasure from sex being taken seriously when for so long it was a myth. And I'd like to add, that no where on any birth control I've taken does it say a side affect is lowered sex drive.

The pill was a big deal when it first came out, but maybe it still needs some retooling is all.Maybe it's the case of wanting to have our cake and eat it to, but considering the importance placed on male pleasure, I think it's about time women can do that.

I find it odd you come to place a like this and berate women, I find your comments very misogynistic and ignorant. How dare we want to have as pleasurable a sex life as men have without having to worry about having children.

1:35PM PST on Jan 11, 2011

When I was on the pill (before the implant) it didn't seem to change my sex drive. The implant seems to of increased it. I feel different women will always see different results

6:54AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

Unfortunately, feminine lack of sex drive isn't seen as much as a problem as the male one...

And, AnnaMarie M., people who takes the BIRTH CONTROL pill, obviously, don't has babies...

3:10AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

That may be, but I do know that our bodies are made to perform certain functions. And in the case of "birth control pills," you are shutting down an entire bodily function. But you're still dumb-founded that doing so could ever have any sort of side-effects? As I said before, it's a wonder that anyone could take you seriously.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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