You may have heard that using hormonal birth control can change (*ahem* lower) your sex drive as a passing joke, your friend saying: “Yeah, that worked for me as birth control because I never wanted to have sex!”, but is it more truth or fiction?
Your hormones certainly play a role in your sex drive (though they are not the only factor), so it would make sense that altering them could alter your sex drive, but how? And how common is it, anyway?
There are two main ways that hormonal birth control can affect your sex drive. One is in stopping ovulation from happening (and the associated hormones) and the other is in increasing the amounts of something called sex hormone binding globulin (stay with me here), which changes your hormone levels that are actually available for use by your body.
Without ovulation your sex drive doesn’t have a natural spike
So first and most obviously we have the stopping of ovulation. The way that our bodies work is having certain hormones be at a bigger concentrations in the body at certain times during your cycle. Around ovulation you have a jump in both estrogen and testosterone, which both increase your sex drive.
But instead of this natural jump in hormone levels, when you are on hormonal birth control it takes over your normal hormone levels and production in order to both stop ovulation and interfere with other reproductive processes. Together these two things are what make hormonal contraception work as a birth control method.
No ovulation, no ovulation-associated hormones, no spike in sex drive.
While we still have the capacity to have and enjoy intercourse and other types of sex while we aren’t fertile, your sex drive and capacity for pleasure is far greater when you are fertile.
Another way that your hormones aren’t giving you the same sex drive you once enjoyed
Next, the same reason that hormonal birth control can clear up your acne also relates to it’s ability to kill your sex drive. A protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is raised when you are on the pill. This protein binds with testosterone, reducing the amount of free testosterone available to the rest of your body.
Testosterone is one of the things that increases sex drive, and without having the right amount of it available you may not feel so randy.
Will taking hormonal birth control make your sex drive nose dive?
Even though it’s pretty common to lose some amount of sexual interest when using hormonal birth control, not everyone does. There is not good research on it (just as there isn’t good research on most aspects of the pill that have anything to do with emotional/psychological issues), but some doctors and sex therapists believe the “sex drive nose dive” could affect about 40% of women who take hormonal birth control. There are other sources that say as little as 10% of women are affected by it, but by stories I hear I tend to think the higher percentages seem more true. Maybe it’s that no one talks about it when they don’t have a sex drive decrease, but it makes me wary to hear so many stories of loss of sex drive and even a continuation of low sex drive after discontinuing the birth control method.
If you are battling low sex drive and are on hormonal contraceptives, you can try coming off of them (remember to use another method of birth control if you don’t intend on getting pregnant) and see if it helps you. Even if you don’t have a full recovery to your normal sex drive immediately, you should gain some back.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t seem to change it could be a variety of other things affecting your current sex drive.
What if your sex drive is still low after coming off of the hormones?
You may still have a low sex drive even after coming off of hormones and wondering why or what you can do to kick it back into gear. In general, if you are not suspicious that your low sex drive could be for other reasons, your hormonal health may be off kilter.
To begin making your hormones run smoothly again you can start by following my 20 simple tips for healthy hormones. As you spend more time off of hormonal birth control and work to get your hormones back to normal you will be able to see where your hormones may need some extra work if you are charting your cycles.
Alternatives to using hormonal birth control when it messes up your sex drive
If you find that your sex drive is negatively influenced by getting on hormones, try using a non-hormonal birth control method. It’s best to start out using a barrier method like condoms and then you could switch to a method that is more permanent if you find that you are relieved and happy to not be using hormonal birth control anymore. You can get a free guide to on-hormonal birth control methods inside of this free course.
I want to hear from you. Do you feel like hormonal birth control killed your sex drive? Did it recover after you stopped using it? Let me know in the comments!