You know what’s really sexy? Not having to worry about unplanned pregnancy.
But if you feel your libido dissipating after going on birth control, is it your contraceptive that’s messing with copulating?
Can birth control affect your sex drive?
The short answer is yes, you may feel less desire to have sex while using birth control. But, the research on this is sparse and contradictory.
Some women might actually feel more horny on birth control or notice no change whatsoever. This is because birth control often affects folks differently.
Let’s see what science has to say about birth control and sex drive.
Libido is just a fun word for your desire to have sex, or your sex drive. High libido = give it to me, baby. Low libido = no thanks, maybe later.
Hormones are likely the main factor in how birth control affects libido, but it’s still not simple. People have variable hormone levels even when they’re not using contraception. And birth controls use different types and levels of hormones.
Estrogen and progesterone (also key hormones in many hormonal birth controls) rise and fall during your menstrual cycle. Upticks in estrogen around ovulation (prime baby-making time) can make you feel extra turned on. But others feel horny before their period or even on their period.
Hormonal contraceptive methods contain doses of similar hormones that can make your desires ebb and flow. Other birth control pills suppress the hormone testosterone, a hormone that makes you more aroused and increases when you’re in the mood. Lower levels of testosterone and other androgens have been associated with lower sex drive.
But, low libido isn’t always directly linked to hormone levels from your birth control or natural cycle.
What else could be messing with your mojo?
There are tons of physical and emotional factors that can impact your sexual desire. Here are some known sex drive disruptors:
- your menstrual cycle
- pelvic pain
- vaginal dryness (sometimes related to hormonal birth control)
- relationship satisfaction
- inadequate sleep
- chronic illness
- negative body image
- certain medications
So what does the science actually say about the relationship between birth control and sex drive? Well, it’s complicated.
In a 2019 review, researchers tried to get to the bottom of contraception’s impact on sex and desire. What they found was negative, neutral, and positive impacts on libido across studies for the same birth control methods.
Here’s what you *might* expect from different BC methods.
Combined hormonal contraceptive pills
This type of hormonal birth control pill contains both estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone) and works by suppressing hormone production to prevent ovulation. It also makes cervical mucus thicker and unfriendly to ambitious sperm.
In theory, these pills lower testosterone and therefore hurt libido, but the research isn’t super clear on this result.
- A 2016 randomized controlled trial found folks taking the pill reported less sexual desire than those who took a placebo. The peeps on the pill also had lower testosterone levels. But, both groups still reported a similar number of sexual encounters and orgasms.
- Another small 2004 study, found those taking pills with lower synthetic estrogen and progesterone had decreased libido and sexual activity after 9 months. But this group still reported a similar number of orgasms while on the pill.
Progestin-only birth control pills (aka the mini pill)
This BC pill option only uses progestin and no estrogen. Similar to other pills it also typically works by making cervical mucus impassable to sperm and suppresses ovulation.
Unfortunately the research for these pills on sex drive is extremely slim, outdated, and somewhat problematic.
- In a small 2012 study participants using progestin-only pills or combined pills had lower sexual desire during 3 months of use compared to those using the vaginal ring.
- Another small 1995 study of couples in Scotland and the Philippines found the progestin-only pill didn’t impact sexual desire or activity after 4 months of use compared to the placebo. However, this study was super flawed because some women had been sterilized.
Vaginal contraceptive ring
Similar to combined BC pills, the vaginal ring contains estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation. Again, mixed results, here.
- That same 2012 study that included BC pills found vaginal ring users reported an increase in sexual desire.
- A 2016 study found the ring didn’t affect sexual desire at all.
Another combined hormone option, the patch is reapplied to the skin weekly.
Overall, studies look like the patch has either no effect or has more desired outcomes compared to BC pills.
- Research from 2016 found the patch didn’t mess with libido at all.
- A 2008 study found patch users who recently used combined BC pills had an increase in sexual function, and a decrease with the ring. However, these differences were too slim to be considered “clinically significant.”
The shot (Depo-Provera)
This progestin-only injection is usually given every 2 to 3 months. It suppresses ovulation, thickens cervical mucus, and thins the endometrial lining of the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
The shot may or may not do anything to your libido based on research.
- A 2016 study found those who had the shot had less interest in sex after 6 months, compared to nonhormonal copper IUD users.
- But a 2010 study found the shot didn’t change sexual desires at all.
Implant (Nexplanon, Implanon)
Implanted under the skin and effective up to 3 years, this option suppresses ovulation and changes cervical mucus quality and uterine lining via progestin.
The implant seems to be similar to the shot and either slightly declines libido or does absolutely nothing.
- In a small 2007 study only 9.4 percent of participants reported decreased libido.
- A 2016 cross-sectional analysis found 23.9 percent of participants had less interest in sex 6 months after using a new birth control. Of those participants, implant users reported more lack in desire.
- A 2014 study found folks using the implant had no effects on libido after using for 3 and 6 months.
Hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Kylena, and Lilleta)
These T-shaped devices use a type of progesterone called levonorgestrel to prevent implantation in the uterus. They also thicken the cervical mucus to ward off swimmers.
Hormonal IUDs appear to have extremely mixed results like birth control pills, but slightly lean toward having positive results on libido.
- A 2012 study found 20 percent of folks with hormonal IUDs had increased sexual desire and 25 percent reported decreased sexual desire.
- An older ’90s study found 9 out of 10 people using hormonal or copper IUDs had no effect on libido.
- A 2011 study found folks with the hormonal IUD reported more sexual desire.
Copper IUD (Paragard)
The copper IUD uses copper ions instead of hormones to repel sperm away. Because it doesn’t use hormones at all, this IUD often has less side effects caused by hormones.
Out of all the birth control, the copper IUD is the only one that seems to consistently have no effect on libido or improve desire.
- According to a 2016 study, copper IUD users were less likely to experience lower libido than people who used the Depo shot, the Implant, or the Ring.
- Another 2012 study found those using copper IUDs had no change in libido or improved sexual function.
Levonorgestrel-releasing hormonal IUDs like Mirena *might* give you a little boost. A 2008 study of 200 women using the Mirena IUD found improved desire of overall sex life.
In another small study, people who took a contraceptive pill containing a lower dose of estrogen and levonorgestrel saw an improvement in libido.
But, again, some folks may not experience the same effect.
Based on the research available, birth control can have different effects on libido. It really seems to depend on the person.
If your BC seems like a big downer for your sex life, talk to your doctor about trying a different type. Nonhormonal BC options like the copper IUD might work better for you. Your OB-GYN may also be able to help you uncover if low libido is related to something else.
PSA: Speak up about your sexual satisfaction
Don’t wait for your doc to ask if you’re satisfied with your sex life… they probably won’t. You’ve gotta advocate for your lacking libido so your gyno knows something’s up.
A survey of 1,000 women at their primary care visits found that though 98 percent had at least one complaint about their sex life, only 18 percent of medical professionals brought up the topic of sexual health.
A whopping 27 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 18 to 44 say they have some sexual dysfunction (low libido included). It doesn’t have to be this way!
Here are some tips that can get you singing, “Come on, baby, light my fire”:
- Seek sexual stimuli. Give romance novels, online erotica, or porn a go to rev things up.
- Take care of your body. Do what your bod craves and get enough exercise and sleep.
- Destress. Find ways to reduce stress like yoga, meditation, journaling, or breathing exercises.
- Touch yourself. Masturbation can help you get more in tune with your body and get the horny juices flowing. Orgasms also help reduce stress and increase levels of oxytocin and dopamine, which may just put you in the mood more often.
- Recruit CBD. Taking CBD might help set the right vibe. Research shows it can reduce anxiety, a libido killer.
- Try an aphrodisiac diet. Eating foods for sex might spice things up (literally and figuratively).
If you start a new birth control and notice you’re not interested in visiting pound town, talk to your doctor. The research on how birth control effects libido is pretty mixed, so your lack of desire might be caused by your birth control or something else.
Getting your sexy back might be as simple as changing your BC method or making lifestyle changes to relight your fire.