Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/09/2020
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:
You’re less nervous. It’s common to feel nervous about sex when you aren’t using birth control, since there’s a real risk of becoming pregnant. After you start taking birth control, it’s completely normal to feel less nervous and more confident about having sex.
Your estrogen levels are higher. Estrogen and testosterone both play a major role in regulating your sex drive. When your estrogen levels are low, it’s common to feel less interested in sex than normal.
If you naturally have low estrogen levels (a relatively common issue for young, premenopausal women), the extra estrogen hormones in combined birth control pills could boost your sex drive and make you feel more interested in sex.
Your periods are lighter. Since birth control pills can make your periods lighter and reduce the frequency of headaches and cramps, you might experience an increase in your level of interest in sex before your period.
Your relationship is stronger. The convenience and effects of birth control pills can strengthen your relationship, making you feel closer to your partner and boosting your interest in sex.
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:
Checking your hormone levels. If birth control has affected your sex drive, the easiest way to check is by doing a hormone test. In addition to estrogen and testosterone, your thyroid, liver, cholesterol levels and other factors can all affect your sex drive.
Sexual dysfunction treatment. Sometimes, a low sex drive can be the result of issues such as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a disorder that reduces your level of interest in and enjoyment from sex.
HSDD is treatable using medication such as flibanserin (Addyi) or through therapy. Our Flibanserin 101 guide examines HSDD in more detail and explains how you can treat your lack of sexual interest for the long term.
Switching birth control pills. If you notice a reduced sex drive after you start using a combined birth control pill, you might be able to restore your sex drive by changing to a progestin-only “mini-pill.”
These pills don’t contain estrogen and only use a small dose of progestin hormones, meaning they often have a reduced effect on your sex drive.
Using another form of birth control. If your low sex drive continues after changing to another birth control pill, your doctor may recommend changing to a non-hormonal form of birth control such as condoms, a copper IUD, cervical cap or diaphragm.
Waiting for side effects to stop. Like other common side effects of birth control, libido issues usually stop on their own. If you feel less interested in sex after you start the pill, try waiting it out for two to three months to see if your sex drive recovers on its own.
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.