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.
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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.
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.
Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing acne treatment.