Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 4th, 2021
Birth Control & Your Sex Drive
Everyone deserves to have a healthy sex life! Yes, we said it!
While birth control has many health benefits, it may lead to decreased libido in some cases. Your libido is also known as your sex drive. Experiencing changes to your sex drive can be frustrating. Thankfully, there are ways to combat this side effect.
Here is everything you need to know about birth control and libido.
What is libido?
Libido refers to a person’s desire to have sex. This may sound simple on the surface, but the topic of libido can become quite complex. There are many factors that can influence one’s sex drive. Here are some factors to consider if you are concerned about your libido:
- Whether you are in a happy and consensual sexual relationship, or if you are experiencing relationship issues
- Your current physical and mental health
- Any medications you are taking (i.e. antidepressants or birth control)
- The stage of life you are in (i.e. if you are approaching menopause)
These are just a few potential factors that could lead to low libido. Essentially, libido is impacted by a complex combination of emotional and physical well-being, lifestyle habits, medical history, and relationship status.
What is decreased libido?
Low libido is essentially a reduced desire to have sex. While there is nothing bad or wrong with having a low sex drive, it is best to seek help from a medical professional if your lack of desire to have sex leads to personal distress or relationship conflicts or if you experience a change to your desire that concerns you.
There may be periods in your life when you are less interested in sex. This alone is healthy and normal. However, if you regularly notice the following symptoms and want to learn how to increase your libido, consult a doctor:
- 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 is causing you concern and distress
Thankfully, experiencing low libido at some point does not mean that you will never be interested in sex. In many cases, the solution may be as simple as switching medications, fixing a health issue that can dull arousal, or implementing relaxation techniques.
Can birth control affect libido?
TLDR: yes — in some cases.
Although the invention of birth control pills has significantly improved women’s quality of life by reducing the severity of period symptoms and providing greater freedom and choice, all medications come with the risk of side effects. While many women do not notice any significant negative outcomes when starting birth control, others may have a different experience. Furthermore, it is crucial to be aware of potential side effects when choosing a contraceptive method.
Introducing synthetic hormones (i.e. those in birth control pills) into the body may impact seemingly unrelated physiological processes, including libido. Estrogen and progesterone, the main components of the pill and other hormonal contraceptives, may lower libido in some women. A 2004 scientific literature review that discussed the findings from numerous studies about the relationship between libido and birth control showed that women who took an oral contraceptive experienced a lower sex drive compared to those who took a placebo pill.
With all of that being said, it is important to note that birth control can enhance women’s lives in many ways, including regulating periods, decreasing acne, reducing stress, and preventing unwanted pregnancy. Plus, there are ways to rebalance your hormones naturally, so your libido levels return to normal.
How do hormonal contraceptives influence libido?
The female reproductive cycle is influenced by many hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and androgen. The androgen group contains testosterone, more commonly known as the ‘male hormone’. However, it is present in women in small amounts and has a significant impact on sex drive. Hormonal birth control methods (i.e. the pill, the patch, and the ring) decrease the production of androgen hormones, which can diminish sexual desire.
Oral contraceptives are known to increase the production of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) in the liver. This protein binds to testosterone and prevents it from being circulated and used throughout the body, leading to a low sex drive.
What types of hormonal birth control affect libido?
The only types of contraception that cannot impact libido are barrier methods such as condoms. However, there are some forms of birth control that may have a greater influence on libido than others. For instance, progestin-only birth control pills (a.k.a. the mini pill) do not affect androgen levels and thus have a lower chance of decreasing libido compared to combination birth control pills. Similarly, IUDs, both hormonal and non-hormonal, do not cause the liver to produce higher levels of SHBG.
How can I increase my libido?
There are several ways that women can rebalance their hormones and return their libido level to its baseline or prevent their libido from falling in the first place. These include, but are not limited to:
- Switching to different hormonal birth control. Did you know there are 40+ different types!?
- Implementing non-hormonal birth control methods, such as condoms, IUD, or spermicide.
- Taking antidepressant or antianxiety medication. You should consult a doctor before starting any such medicines.
- Using a dilator. These can also help to decrease pain during sex.
- Trying relaxation or foreplay techniques. These can be done alone or with your partner.
With so many factors that can influence libido, it can be challenging to determine the specific cause. Furthermore, consulting a doctor or even a therapist specializing in sexual health may be necessary to find a long-term solution. There is no need to feel ashamed, as low libido happens to almost every person at some point during their life.
Example cause, effect, and solution
Cause: You recently started taking hormonal birth control.
Effect: You have noticed a decrease in your sex drive.
Solution: Consult the doctor who initially prescribed your birth control and explain what is going on. While you may need to try a different type of birth control, your doctor may first increase the dosage of your current prescription. For example, if you currently take Junel 1/20, they may put you on Junel 1.5/30, which has 50% more of the androgen and, thus, may increase libido.
How can Pandia Health help?
At Pandia Health, we believe that women should be able to take birth control AND enjoy sex. Sign up for our FREE delivery service so you can get your prescription delivered right to your mailbox. If you live in these states, you can set up an online consultation with one of our expert doctors to find a prescription that works best for you.
Already on birth control that you like? Great! You can get it transferred to our pharmacy so that you can #SkipTheTrip and get your medication delivered right to your mailbox.
If you suspect that your birth control might be having a negative impact on your libido, contact us today to discuss your options.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is decreased libido?
Low libido is essentially a decreased desire to have sex.
Can birth control decrease sex drive?
While many women do not notice any significant negative outcomes when starting hormonal birth control, others do notice a decrease in their sex drive. This is likely due to the decrease in testosterone, which is the hormone that influences sex drive.
Does birth control affect pleasure?
Being that birth control can impact libido, it may lead to decreased enjoyment during sex. If this is the case, you may need to take action by implementing medical and/or lifestyle changes. Disclaimer: 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.