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All the Ways Birth Control Pills Can Affect Your Sex Life, for Better or Worse  March 30, 2016 – 09:37 am

All the Ways Birth Control Pills Can Affect Your Sex Life, for Better or WorseAround 10 million women in the U.S. take some form of birth control pill, and with good reason: the Pill is one of the most effective birth control methods. But messing with your hormones can alter your sex life in positive and negative ways. Here’s what you need to know, as a pill-taker or as the partner of one.

How the Pill Works

While the phrase “the Pill” seems to imply one particular pill, there are actually dozens of birth control pills on the market. Each one has different dosages of hormones that help the body prevent pregnancy. Most pills contain a combination of progestin and estrogen, while some contain only progestin. These hormones prevent your body from ovulating (releasing an egg from your ovary). With no egg, there’s nothing to be fertilized, and no way for you to get pregnant. Huzzah!

But that’s not all those hormones do—they can also have an effect on your sex drive, your emotions, and even who you’re attracted to.

How the Pill Affects Sexual Desire

The Pill’s relationship with sexual desire is complex. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the least-researched aspects of potential side effects. Since the Pill changes your hormone levels, and hormone levels are also a component of sexual desire, it seems logical that the Pill would have an effect on sexual desire.

Unfortunately, sex drive isn’t as simple as “more hormones = more horny” (I’m imagining a caveman loudly grunting that statement). There are an overwhelming number of factors that influence sexual desire, including other health issues, stress, ability, sleep, relationship dynamics, psychological attitudes towards sex, self-esteem, body image, and safety. But here are a few of the possibilities you might encounter.

Ways the Pill Might Decrease Your Sex Drive

Let’s start with how the pill works biologically (with the caveat that I am not a doctor). Your ovaries, which the Pill essentially “shuts down”, are also responsible for producing testosterone, a hormone that has been linked with sex drive. The Pill itself can lower levels of testosterone in a woman’s body. It also forces the body into a steady-state of hormone levels, meaning you won’t experience the usual spikes of testosterone during your cycle. If you’ve ever felt particularly horny before your period, that spike may have been the culprit. Estrogen can also increase levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG attaches to testosterone and makes it biologically unavailable, further decreasing testosterone levels. Again, the relationship between testosterone and sex drive isn’t fully understood, but lower testosterone levels may not be the greatest thing for a woman’s sex drive.

The Pill can also drastically decrease the amount of lubrication your body creates. This can make sex uncomfortable or even painful. Some women associate getting wet with being turned on, so dryness can be interpreted as a psychological signal that she’s not aroused.

Being on the Pill for a long period of time has also been associated with an increased risk of vulvar pain. When your girly bits hurt, sex does not seem particularly enticing.

Ways the Pill Might Increase Your Sex Drive

There are also a fair number of ways that the Pill might contribute to you to wanting or being open to sex more often, though. For example:

  • Knowing you’re safe from getting knocked up can be a huge relief. That sense of relaxation in and of itself can naturally increase your desire for sex. (Remember that while the Pill guards against pregnancy, it does nothing to protect you against STIs.)
  • Some women use the Pill to skip periods entirely. If you’re not comfortable having sex during your period (there’s no need to be embarrassed, but some women don’t like it), being on the Pill may give you more days where sex is actually a possibility.
  • Being on the Pill typically means the end of menstrual cramping. Not having to deal with that pain may make you more open to sex.
  • Some pills decrease acne. If you have serious adult acne, you know that it can make intimacy seem far too intimidating. More self confidence can make you feel more comfortable having sex.


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