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Combination Pill & Sex Drive: What You Need to Know

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
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Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
Last updated:

More than 72 million in America are currently using some form of contraception. The development of new forms of contraception has played a huge role in the women's liberation moment both in the US and around the world.

Contraceptive pills are still extremely popular with women between the ages of 15 and 49. These were first approved by the FDA for use in American in 1957.

However, using the combination pill can come with a lot of side effects that many women find frustrating and uncomfortable. A loss of sex drive is particularly common.

So why does the combination pill affect your sex drive and is there anything you can do to improve your libido while on the pill? Read on to find out more.

What is the combination pill?

The combination pill is one of the most traditional types of female contraception.

It is a pill that you take every day, ideally at the same time, which contains a combination of estrogen and progesterone. These are hormones that your body naturally produces in the ovaries. However, by altering your hormone levels at different times of your menstrual cycle, the pill can prevent pregnancy.

In each cycle, you tend to take your pill for 21 days. Then you have a 7-day break in which you bleed. To make it easy to remember to take your pill, a lot of packs contain inactive pills for your break week.

For maximum efficacy, you should take your pill at the same time every day. Missed or late pills can make your contraception less effective and may result in pregnancy.

There are lots of different brands of combination pills used in America. Some of the most common brands include:

  • Alesse
  • Aviana
  • Desogen
  • Beyaz
  • Azurette
  • Levora
  • Levlite
  • Yasmin

All of these are combination pills work in the same way. However, you may find that some pills are more strongly associated with certain side effects.

How does this work?

Combination pills work to prevent pregnancy in three different ways. Most importantly, they stop your ovaries from releasing an egg every month.

They also make the mucus around the neck of your womb thicker. This makes it more difficult for sperm to enter your womb and find an egg.

On top of this, the combination pill stops the lining of your womb from building up too much each month. This means that a fertilized egg would not have anywhere to implant successfully in your womb.

Collectively, this makes it difficult for your eggs to become fertilized and stops fertilized eggs from becoming viable pregnancies.

Side effects of using a combination birth control pill

Like any medication, the combined contraceptive pill has several different side effects. Some of these are more common than others and different women will have more severe symptoms than others.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Spotting between your periods
  • Nausea when first using the pill
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings
  • Missed or shorter, lighter periods
  • A change in vaginal discharge
  • Changes in your corneas that make contact lenses uncomfortable to wear
  • Reduced symptoms of PMS

Not every side effect of the combined pill is a bad one. For example, some women enjoy not having to deal with periods and PMS symptoms. Some women also find that their pill improves skin conditions such as acne.

However, the combined pill can have an impact on your sex drive. To understand this more, let's take a closer look at why this can happen.

The combination pill and your sex drive

One of the most commonly reported side effects of the combination pill is a decrease in sex drive.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you enjoy sex any less than before. It just means that you don't particularly feel like having sexual intercourse. You may only want to have it at certain times or you might not want to have it at all.

This can happen when the hormone levels in your body change.

When you aren't taking the pill, your hormone levels will trigger an increase in your period around the time of ovulation. This is your body's way of increasing your chances of having sex and getting pregnant.

However, when your hormone levels change, this no longer happens. As a result, you may find that your libido becomes much lower.

That said, it is important to note that some women find that taking the pill actually increases their libido. Taking the pill can make you less stressed about accidental pregnancies or reduce your symptoms of PMS. In that case, you might find that your sex drive increases.

Mood swings and your birth control

The combined pill can affect your mood in much the same way that your menstrual cycle does.

This means that you may go through periods of feeling very energetic and positive followed by lower episodes. Unfortunately, a lot of women also find that taking the pill lowers their moods and can contribute to periods of depression.

Of course, if you are experiencing any sort of dip in your mood or mental health, this can have a serious impact on your libido. On top of this, taking antidepressants can also affect your libido.

So the combined pill could have a knock-on effect on your libido even if it doesn't directly affect it.

Tracking changes in your libido

If you are concerned that your pill might affect your libido, the first thing you should do is try to track any changes. This can help you to spot any patterns in your sex drive and other symptoms.

It's a good idea to track:

  • The start of each pill pack
  • When your break week happens
  • Your daily symptoms (including your libido)
  • Your periods (if you have them)
  • Your daily mood
  • Any other factors that may affect your libido (such as increased stress or new medication)

Doing this for eight weeks or so will help you to spot any triggering factors. It can also help you to get more familiar with your own body. Boosting this connection can really help when it comes to boosting your libido.

If you do think that your pill is affecting your sex drive, there are plenty of things you can do to help this.

Communicate with your sexual partner

When it comes to your libido, communicating with your sexual partner or partners is key. This ensures that everyone is having a good time.

Speaking to them about your concerns can help you feel more relaxed in a sexual situation. In fact, relieving this stress can actually boost your sex drive.

It also means that you can work together to find something that helps. This can really help when it comes to something like contraception, which often falls onto one partner's shoulders.

Try a different type of pill

There are lots of different types and brands of contraceptive pills.

You may find that you react differently to a different brand of the contraceptive pill. Or switching to the progestin-only pill might reduce your side effects.

If you think this might help, then you should get in touch with your doctor to speak to them about your options.

Take a break

If you are concerned about any of the effects that your pill is having on you, it is a good idea to take a break from it. As you come off the pill, keep tracking your symptoms to see if it does make a difference.

If your sex drive does improve in the meantime, you can use barrier methods of contraception.

Then you can speak to your doctor about alternative long-term methods of contraception if you want to try them. You may find that other types of hormonal contraception don't affect you in the same way.

Get emotional support

It can be incredibly stressful if you feel like you are solely responsible for contraception in a sexual relationship.

This can have a massive impact on your libido and may also mean that there is a deeper-lying issue in the relationship itself. After all, contraception should be something that every member of a sexual partnership takes responsibility for.

If your contraception does impact your sex drive, this can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment towards your partner. This is the last thing your libido needs!

Talking about your sex drive in a safe and supportive environment can be the first step towards recovering your libido. This can relieve the emotional stress of living with a low libido so that you can focus on anything else that might be affecting it.

Bring back your libido

If you are using the combination pill, this might be affecting your libido without you realizing it. Tracking changes in your libido can help you figure out what in particular is affecting it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do if your pill is affecting your libido. To find out more check out the Blueheart app now.

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