While birth control pills have revolutionized women’s sexuality, they are not without side effects. Most people are well aware that birth control pills may cause weight gain, nausea and even blood clots. Women may be less aware of less obvious and equally troubling potential side effects of the pill, including depression and loss of libido. Alternatively, some women may find they feel better and have a higher libido while on hormonal contraception. Each woman may react differently to hormonal contraceptives, and one pill may cause fewer side effects than another.
The majority of oral contraceptives on the market use both estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills work by maintaining hormone levels that keep the body from releasing an egg, thereby avoiding the risk of pregnancy. Combination birth control pills include multiphasic pills, continuous use pills and monophasic pills. Progestin-only birth control pills work by thickening cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from reaching the uterus.
Many women report decreased libido while taking birth control pills. Symptoms may include fewer sexual thoughts, decreased lubrication and reduced sexual satisfaction. The hormones in the pill may bind free-acting testosterone in the body. Testosterone is the hormone largely responsible for libido. Changing to a different pill may lessen this side effect.
Mood Swings and Depression
Some women find that they experience more mood swings and depression while taking hormonal birth control. The hormone progestin in birth control pills may lower the level of seratonin in the brain. Seratonin contributes to a feeling of well being, and low seratonin levels have been linked to depression.
Women suffering from severe premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD) may find that the pill can reduce their mood swings and depression. Finding the right pill for this purpose can be difficult; however, one pill on the market today, Yazmin, has been FDA approved for the treatment of PMDD.
If you suspect that the pill is impacting your mood or libido, it probably is. You may find that a lower dose pill reduces these symptoms, or that changing to a different pill is helpful. Some women find that lower dose hormonal contraceptive options, like the Mirena IUD, work well without impacting mood or sex drive. You may also want to choose a barrier method instead of using hormonal contraceptives if the pill has reduced your sex drive or caused mood swings and depression.