The Pill has a whole slew of well-known side effects ranging from inconvenient breakthrough bleeds to headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea. And, anyone who’s ever used hormonal birth control knows that the side effects are not just physical. They’re psychological and behavioral as well. The most ironic, perhaps, is a loss of sex drive. Because, what’s the point?
Advocates of the Pill have long refuted women’s claims that libido is diminished by hormonal birth control. But what does “the science” have to say about it?
First, it should be noted that there’s a long history of women complaining of physical pain or side effects and it going unregistered, thanks to pain bias in the medical world. Women, and particularly women of color, are often dismissed when trying to tell medical professionals what’s going on with their bodies. There’s plenty of research confirming this bias exists. What there isn’t, yet, is good research looking into women’s actual experiences.
To be fair, studying sex drive and libido is complex. There are a lot of factors that go into a person’s sexuality including the health of any relationship they might be in, stress, and other health factors that may cause pain, discomfort, or fatigue. But mixed and inconclusive results in past studies have led to strong, decisive headlines declaring that libido and the Pill are absolutely not linked.
Ovulation and sex drive
Hmmm…We’re not entirely convinced. Let’s step back for sec and look at how the Pill works, and how that might relate to sex drive. The whole idea behind this form of contraception is that it shuts down your ovulatory cycle. That makes it impossible to fertilize an egg, because eggs simply aren’t being released. Which is fab news if you’re not planning on baking a new human right now.
That said, Ovulation is a process that comes with a whole slew of natural hormonal changes. Estrogen, which had been dominating the first half of the cycle prior to ovulation, peaks just as Luteinizing Hormone comes into the picture. And this combination can spike your sex drive.
This makes total sense, of course. Your body is — whether you’re on board or not — trying very hard to get you pregnant during ovulation. It isn’t even just our sex drive that increases. All sorts of mating behaviors get a little fuel injection. You may find yourself more creative, more energetic, and loving your hair.
But, if you’re routinely NOT ovulating… Then you’re routinely not experiencing this surge in hormones and sex drive. Seems as though sex drive IS affected by the Pill, after all!
We’re all different
More recent studies have investigated this a bit further. And the general consensus is that the Pill likely has an effect on sex drive. But, interestingly, it’s associated with a decrease in sexual interest OR an increase! Depending on your own body, and what symptoms, social dynamics, and the like might have been at play before starting birth control, the response when using hormonal birth control can vary enormously.
Follow your instincts
So, while research still has some clarifying to do, if you suspect your birth control may be messing with your libido, you’re probably right. Your past health and history are the best data available to you. So, if something feels different or off, and the only change you’ve made is taking the Pill, consider that it could be at fault. Luckily, there are lots of other contraceptive options out there to keep you safe, while allowing for hormone balance and a lively sex drive. So never settle for something that’s not working for you, gang.