Birth control pills on a sheet of pink paper
Credit: Marta Pucci

How Hormonal Contraception Affects Sex Drive

Getting a birth control prescription that works for you can be liberating. Suddenly, you're free to enjoy your partner with far less worry.

Except, the trouble is, while you and your partner have secured birth control, suddenly you're just not in the mood. What's worse, you can't seem to figure out what is making it more difficult for you to get it on.

Interestingly enough, it could be your birth control that's the culprit. Hormonal contraception has been shown to affect your sex drive in a few surprising ways. If you're having issues with libido, you're not alone. Here's what you should know about hormonal contraception and birth control.

How libido works

To really understand why hormonal birth control has such an effect on some women's sex drive, it's important to understand how libido works. Sex drive is different for every individual.

There are many different factors that will affect a person's libido. A few common factors that affect sex drive include:

  • A couple's relationship
  • Social factors such as school or work
  • Personality
  • Stress levels
  • Mental health disorders
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle
  • Puberty or menopause

All of these factors can cause an increase or a decrease in a person's individual libido. Researchers are still learning more about how sex drive works.

To make matters worse, it's very difficult to measure what may be affecting a woman's sex drive, which makes these studies even more difficult. Far less is known about female sex drive and female orgasms than is known about men.

Why birth control affects libido

While the exact reasons behind how libido works are still being researched, the correlation between birth control and libido is mostly due to the hormones used in these medications. Most birth control pills, known as combined oral contraceptives, are made of estrogen and progesterone.

When a woman takes the birth control pill, it boosts her levels of these two hormones. Because her hormone levels are so high, her body is unable to produce an egg, which stops her from being able to get pregnant.

The trouble is, the ovaries produce male hormones, known as androgens, that drive libido in women. When the ovaries are being suppressed, a woman is not producing as many androgens.  

While the lack of ovulation may prevent a woman from getting pregnant, it may also prevent her from getting in the mood thanks to the lack of androgens. Without these sexual desire driving hormones, it becomes trickier for women to get turned on.

Types of hormonal birth control

There are several different types of hormonal birth control medications on the market, and each of these affects your libido in different ways. Here are a few of the more common hormonal birth control methods used.

Implant contraception

Implant contraception is a form of hormonal birth control that works by being placed directly into the arm. This device typically lasts for three years and constantly releases hormones into the bloodstream.

It releases progestogen, which thickens the cervical mucus and makes it more difficult for sperm to implant in the woman. It's a great option for women who want hormonal birth control that doesn't require taking pills.

Femodene

One popular birth control pill is Femodene. This pill, like Microgynon 30 and Brevinor is a small tablet that's taken daily and prevents pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucous.

People who take Femodene have reported cramps, enlarged and tender breasts, and headaches. However, many women also report having clearer skin with little to no acne.

Loestrin 20

Loestrin 20 is a fairly common birth control method that comes in small pills. These tablets prevent pregnancy by making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb, by stopping ovulation, and by increasing womb thickness.

Women who take Loestrin report having tender or enlarged breasts and either vaginal discharge or dryness. However, many people are able to relieve skin breakouts by taking Loestrin 20.

IUD contraception

An IUD is another form of birth control. This hormonal birth control device releases progestogen into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It works in the same way as combination birth control pills do.

People taking this birth control method occasionally experience unwanted side effects. These can include cramps, headaches, acne, tender breasts, or vaginal discharge.

Speaking with your doctor about libido issues

If you recently began taking birth control and are worried that it's negatively affecting your sex life, you can take a few steps to resolve the problem. The first step, of course, is to speak with your gynecologist.

There are many different tactics you can take for restoring your sexual desire. Your doctor will work with you to come up with a plan that makes sense for you and your lifestyle.

Switch your birth control

One way to get your libido back is to simply switch your birth control. There are many different types of birth control pills out there, many of which use different hormones to help ensure your body is working as it should.

On top of that, you can choose to steer clear of hormonal contraceptives altogether. Rather than using hormonal medications, you can choose to get an IUD or another treatment to get your androgen levels back in check.

Monitoring hormone levels

Another way that your doctor may help you get your sex drive back if you're on birth control is by checking your hormone levels. With blood tests, your doctor can see what hormones may be causing the issue.

Your doctor may help you in monitoring your hormone levels and providing you with supplements. This can help you to get your libido back so that you can keep enjoying Netflix and Chill with your partner.

Ruling out reasons

It's not just birth control that affects your libido. Sometimes, other issues with the body may be the culprit for why you're just not feeling it these days. Your doctor can check for issues that may behind low libido, such as:

  • Depression
  • Thyroid problems
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

These are just a few problems that can have a negative effect on your libido and that could be the reason why your sex drive is low.  Having said that, whatever the reason for your libido issues, therapy will always always help. Treating your mind alongside your body can be the best way to resolve things.

Therapy for libido and sex drive

If you're still struggling with getting your sexual desire back, you may want to try therapy for your libido. Sex drive therapy is a type of treatment that can help you and your partner to get back into your groove.

Before starting therapy, it's a good idea to make sure you rule out any biological issues. Having a quick conversation with your doctor can tell you whether or not there's another issue at hand.

Sex therapy is also a great choice for couples who are experiencing relationship issues thanks to low libido. Through guided conversations with a sex therapist, the two of you can begin to understand what's going on a bit better. They will take you through a course of low pressure touch exercises as well as education about yourself and each other to help resolve the issue, and bring you back together intimately.

Blueheart is a digital version of this process, created and maintained by a team of expert sex therapists.

Hormonal birth control and increased libido

It's not just low sex drive that can arise thanks to birth control. Some women actually experience an increase in their sexual desire after starting a hormonal birth control medication.

This often happens when a woman experiences an improved mood after taking birth control. Because she's feeling better about herself and her body, she's more interested in having a good time with her partner.

However, this boost in libido can also be thanks to the fact that planning around a period is no longer a worry for the couple. With her cycle more regulated, a woman may have fewer worries about getting pregnant and feel more at ease with her partner.

Plus, many women experience much lighter or nonexistent periods while on hormonal birth control. This too can affect their libido and lead them to have improved sexual desire.

This can be great, but can also create relationship tension if you now have a higher desire for sex than your partner. If this is the case for you, explore the rest of our site to see how we can help you. Though movies and TV may teach us that women are usually the lower driven person, people who use Blueheart are at around 50/50 in the male/female split of who reports lower or higher libido.

Know your birth control's effect on your body

Everyone is different. What you experience after starting birth control may be completely different from what your best friend or your sister experiences.

Understanding your particular method of birth control can help you to know how to combat low libido and get your sex drive back. There are many different treatments and reasons why you may be experiencing low libido, and speaking with a doctor can help you easily fix these issues.

If you're experiencing low libido and want to use sex drive therapy as a way of getting back to normal, the team at Blue Heart can help. Download our app and start sex drive therapy with your partner from the comfort of your home. Together, let's help you get your libido back!