Noticed a decline in your interest in sex after starting birth control? You’re not alone. While the majority of women who use birth control pills don’t report any effects on their sex drive, that doesn’t mean birth control and sex drive aren’t linked.
Depending on your individual reaction to the hormones used in your birth control pills, your sex drive could get stronger or weaker after you start taking the pill.
Below, we’ve explained how hormonal birth control pills can affect your sex drive, level of sexual enjoyment and sex life in general. We’ve also looked at how you can keep your sex drive steady and consistent after starting birth control.
Before we get into the science behind the relationship between birth control and sex drive, it’s important to point out that most women don’t experience any change in their sex drive from birth control.
In a systematic review of studies of oral contraception and sex drive, the majority of women who used oral birth control reported no change in their libido. Simply put, birth control neither raised nor lowered their interest in sex.
Of the 8,422 women involved in the study who used birth control pills, just over 21 percent reported an increase in their sex drive after starting birth control. Fifteen percent reported a decrease in their interest in sex.
The scientific data is all over the place, with an almost equal number of women reporting higher and lower levels of interest in sex after starting birth control.
From a hormonal perspective, birth control and sex drive are related by the changing levels of androgens, estrogens and progestin hormones in your body as a result of the pill.
Birth control pills contain either a combination of progestin and estrogen hormones (combined birth control) or progestin hormones alone (progestin-only birth control). These hormones work either on their own or together to stop ovulation, reducing your pregnancy risk.
Our guide to the differences between combined and progestin-only birth control pills covers the main differences between these hormones, as well as how they can affect your body.
The combination of estrogen and progestin hormones in combined birth control pills can lower your body’s testosterone levels. Since testosterone is one of several hormones responsible for regulating your sex drive, this could cause you to develop a lower level of interest in sex.
Lower levels of testosterone can also make your clitoris and vagina less sensitive, meaning not only can you have a lower level of interest in sex, but sex can also feel less pleasurable, from a physical perspective. So, if you’re asking yourself, “Does birth control affect pleasure?” the answer may very well be yes.
It’s not just the effects of birth control on your testosterone levels that can affect your interest in sex. The hormones in birth control pills can also reduce the amount of fluid that’s released into your vagina when you’re aroused, making sex more difficult and less enjoyable.
Not everyone will experience these effects from birth control, but they’re still worth noting. Every woman has a different level of sensitivity to estrogens, progestins and androgens, meaning you might not notice any change in your sex drive, vaginal sensitivity or level of sexual enjoyment after starting birth control—or, you may notice a huge one.
So, if the hormones in birth control pills can suppress your androgen production and make sex less enjoyable, why do some women notice a stronger sex drive after starting birth control?
The answer to this one is simple: Everyone is different. There are several reasons you might feel more interested in sex after you start using the pill:
If you have noticed a negative link between your birth control and sex drive, it’s important to understand that there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself. From medication to changes in your lifestyle, learning how to get your sex drive back while on birth control doesn’t have to be impossible. Your options include:
Most importantly, just remember: Everyone reacts to birth control in different ways. Learning how to get your sex drive back while on birth control is just another part of your process, and your process is probably going to be uniquely your own. But it’s not impossible.
Whether you notice an increase, decrease or no change at all in your sex drive after you start using the pill, it’s important to remember that, like other birth control side effects, libido issues aren’t permanent.
Interested in learning more about birth control? Our guide to birth control side effects goes into more detail on how common side effects from birth control pills are, from weight gain, spotting and nausea to more serious, less common side effects.