Can Hormonal Birth Control Affect Libido?
Hormonal birth control methods are some of the most popular contraceptives in the U.S. While birth control is incredibly effective at preventing pregnancy, hormonal birth control offers women a wide range of other health benefits as well. The pill can regulate cycles, decrease monthly bleeding, and banish stubborn hormonal acne for good. But, hormone levels affect all different bodily systems, not just the reproductive cycle.
Introducing synthetic hormones into the body can have different effects on seemingly unrelated physiological processes, including a person’s appearance, their ability to regulate emotions, and even their libido. Today’s article will cover how hormonal birth control affects desire, so women can make an informed contraceptive choice that fits their needs and lifestyle.
What is libido?
The libido refers to a person’s sex drive, their desire to have sex, and their sexual enjoyment. Many different things can influence a person’s libido.
- If they are in a happy, consensual sexual relationship.
- If they are experiencing significant stress in their life.
- Their physical and mental health levels.
- Some pharmaceuticals.
A multitude of factors influences the human libido, and sex drive varies greatly from woman to woman. Desire can also change depending on what stage of life a person is in. The beginning and the end of a romantic relationship can also influence the libido. If one person in a relationship has a higher sex drive than the other, that’s normal, and hardly anyone’s libido will sync up at all stages of a relationship. Even if a person’s sex drive has waned, the relationship could be at its strongest.
However, low libido can cause significant distress. The symptoms of low libido are:
- Never experiencing or seldom experiencing sexual thoughts or fantasies.
- Having no interest in sexual activity of any kind, including masturbation
- The lack of sexual interest causes concern and distress.
When the libido decreases, and it causes problems in someone’s life, it’s important to speak to a doctor. Usually, during a low libido can be as simple as changing a person’s medications, fixing a health issue that can dull arousal, or prescribing synthetic hormones to increase desire.
For women who are looking to start or switch hormonal birth control products, it’s critical that they understand how hormones in birth control can affect the libido.
Can hormonal birth control affect libido?
The synthetic hormones in the pill and other hormonal contraceptives can lower libido in some women. It is estimated that between 5% and 10% of all women who take the pill will experience a decrease in sex drive. That may seem like a small number until one takes into account that around 80% of all women born after the year 1945 have taken oral contraceptives at some point in their lives.
Studies have shown that women who take an oral contraceptive experience a low sex drive compared to women who take a placebo. In recent surveys, women who take an oral contraceptive were twice as likely to report a low sex drive than women who took non-hormonal birth control.
Although the invention of birth control pills has significantly improved women’s quality of life and given them freedom and choices, any medication comes with side effects. While the vast majority of women will not experience low libido as a side effect while on birth control, many will, and it’s important that women are aware of these side effects when choosing a contraceptive method.
How does the pill or other hormonal contraceptives influence libido?
The female reproductive cycle is influenced by many hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and androgen hormones. Androgen hormones include testosterone, which has a significant impact on sex drive. Hormonal birth control methods decrease the ovaries production of androgen hormones, which can diminish sexual desire, enjoyment, and lubrication.
The human body also produces a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, or SHBG in the liver. SHBG binds to testosterone and prevents it from being circulated and used throughout the body. Oral contraceptives are known to increase the production of SHBG. High levels of SHBG lead to low sex drive. In rare cases, even stopping hormonal birth control or switching contraceptive methods can affect libido long-term. It can be months before libido levels return to normal.
There are several things women can do to either rebalance their hormones and return libido levels to baseline or prevent libido from falling in the first place.
- Switching to different hormonal birth control.
- Using non-hormonal birth control methods.
- Taking testosterone supplements.
- Using hormone nasal sprays that increase libido.
- Using vasodilator medications to increase libido.
- Using dopaminergic drugs.
What types of hormonal birth control affect libido?
The only type of birth control that someone can use that will not affect libido are barrier methods, such as male and female condoms. However, some forms of hormonal birth control do not have has much effect on libido as others.
Many birth control products use estrogen-mimicking synthetic hormones that lower androgens in the body. But some hormonal contraceptives have higher androgen indexes, meaning they do not have as much of an effect on androgen levels. Progestin-only birth control pills do no affect androgen levels nearly as much as combination birth control pills. IUDs, both hormonal and non-hormonal, do not produce estrogen hormones like most birth control pills. So they do not cause the liver to produce more levels of SHBG.
When women do not use hormonal birth control, their bodies naturally ovulate once per month, and it is during that time that sex drive is highest. IUDs suppress ovulation for most women during the first year after they are placed. When ovulation doesn’t happen, there is no naturally occurring increase to sex drive. So, even though an IUD won’t affect SHBG levels, it can still decrease libido because it suppresses ovulation.
Despite the possibility of these side effects, the vast majority of women do not experience low libido when taking hormonal contraceptives. Hormonal contraceptives also give women numerous other benefits that can improve their quality of life. Low stress and good health can increase feelings of well-being and also sexual desire and enjoyment.
If you’re interested in finding a birth control method that is right for you, please sign up with Pandia Health today to explore your options for having safe, effective birth control delivered straight to your door.
The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.