Birth control pills come with a range of side effects, both good and bad. Whether you’re on the pill to prevent pregnancy or to manage your periods, you may find that your libido changes when you start hormonal birth control or change pills. Many women experience a lower sex drive on the pill, but an increase in libido is also possible.
How the Pill Works
Birth control pills rely upon hormones to prevent pregnancy. Most pills use a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. Depending upon the pill you choose, you may take the same dose throughout the month, or hormone levels may change week by week. Pills can be taken for 21 days with a seven-day course of placebo pills or can be taken continuously to avoid menstruation.
Some women experience increased desire for sex while on birth control pills. Higher libido can be psychological, as fear of pregnancy is decreased. Reduced mood swings or menstrual discomfort can also improve libido and increase interest in sex. If you experience particularly difficult cycles, severe premenstrual syndrome, or other difficulties, you may find that birth control pills improve your quality of life, your relationship and, thus, your sex life.
Decreased Sex Drive
While a few women will experience an increase in libido on birth control pills, many more will find that they have less interest in sex. Birth control pills inhibit the production of androgens and may reduce the body’s ability to use testosterone. Progesterone can cause vaginal dryness, decreased interest in sex and reduce enjoyment of sex. While the pill may play a role in your lower libido, consider your lifestyle, including your relationship and stress levels as well before you blame your birth control.
Improving the Situation
If you’re currently taking birth control pills and need to increase your libido, speak to your health care provider about your concerns. In some cases, changing to a different birth control pill can help. Pills with more estrogen and less progesterone are apt to leave your sex drive intact and reduce negative sexual side effects. Triphasic pills with varying hormone levels may be less problematic than a monophasic pill. You might also consider switching to a non-hormonal contraceptive, like condoms or a copper IUD.
If you stop taking birth control pills or switch to a different pill in the hopes of increasing your libido, realize that it may take some time to see an improvement. A January 2006 study in the “Journal of Sexual Medicine” showed higher levels of sex-hormone binding globulin or SHBG, which impacts the function of testosterone in the body, even after pills were discontinued.