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Does the Progestin-Only Mini Pill Affect Libido?

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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 100 million women currently use the pill as contraception. Reclaiming control over your reproductive cycles can be extremely empowering. This also means that you get to enjoy stress-free sex.

However, did you know that the type of contraceptive pill that you take might be having an effect on your sex drive? There are two types of contraceptive pills: the combined pill and the mini pill. Each of these can have a very different effect on your libido.

If you are on the pill and are experiencing a low sex drive, it might be time to review your contraception. So what is the mini pill and does it have an effect on your sex drive?

What is the mini pill?

The mini pill is a commonly used type of contraceptive pill. However, it differs from the traditional combined contraceptive pill.

This is because it only contains the hormone progestin. This is also known as the mini pill norethindrone or the progestin-only pill (PIP).

In order for the mini pill to work effectively, you must take it at the same time every day. Unlike the combined pill, you have a much smaller window in which to take the mini pill before its efficacy is affected.

You take the mini pill continuously and do not have a break week, unlike the combined pill.

How does the mini pill work?

The progestin in the mini pill has several effects on your body, which help it to prevent pregnancy.

Like the combined pill, it thickens the cervical mucus at the opening of your womb. This makes it a lot more difficult for sperm to enter your womb.

At the same time, it thins the lining of your uterus. This means that an egg won't have anywhere to implant if sperm does fertilize it.

The mini pill can also prevent ovulation, however, it does this less reliably than the combined pill. If you take your pill at the same time every day it should consistently prevent ovulation.

To help yourself do this, make sure that you always have a spare pill pack on you and set a daily reminder. This means that wherever you are, taking your pill won't be an issue.

Side effects of taking the mini pill

Of course, no pill is perfect and there are plenty of side effects that come with taking the mini pill. These include:

  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness or enlargement
  • Changes in your sex drive
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea or vomiting (especially when first using the pill)
  • Ovarian cysts (these usually disappear without treatment and don't cause harm)
  • Lower libido or problems with sexual desire

Some women will experience a lot of these side effects, while others may only experience one or two. The best way to understand how the mini-pill affects you is to track potential side effects over a period of time.

If you notice that certain side effects are popping up a lot then you might want to discuss these with your doctor.

Benefits of taking the progestin-only pill

For some people who want to take the pill, the progestin-only pill is a much better option than the combined pill. It is especially suitable for people who:

  • Are breast-feeding
  • Have a history of blood clots
  • Do not want to take estrogen
  • Want their periods to remain the same
  • Have liver disease
  • Have heart disease or arterial disease
  • Have ever had a stroke
  • Have breast cancer or have previously had breast cancer

Of course, you can also take the mini birth control pill if you don't have any of these conditions. So what does all of this mean for your sex drive?

Understanding your sex drive

When it comes to your sex drive, we aren't just talking about your desire to have sex. There are a lot of things that can make your experience of sex more or less enjoyable.

Everyone's sex drive is different and you should look at a range of areas when assessing your own. This includes:

  • Your interest in sex (also known as your libido)
  • Your arousal during sexual situations (for example, your emotional desire for someone or natural lubrication)
  • How satisfied you feel during and after a sexual experience
  • How comfortable you feel during a sexual experience
  • Other conditions that can affect your desire to have sex, such as stress about erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation

When your sexual desire is different from your partner's (which is very normal), this is called Sexual Desire Discrepancy, or SDD. Check out this article on how SDD can affect your relationship.

While your interest in sex can determine whether or not you want to have it, the rest of these factors can have a big influence. For example, if you do not feel satisfied during sex, you are much less likely to be interested in having it in the first place.

It is important to note that everyone has a different sex drive and some people's are naturally higher than others. However, a huge range of things can affect your sex drive, including:

  • Stress and your mental health
  • Medication that you're taking
  • Previous sexual experiences or traumas
  • Major life changes, such as becoming a parent
  • Your education around sex

We have a complete guide on low libido causes, if you're interested in finding out what libido is and what can cause it to thrive or dive.

So where does the mini pill fit into all of this?

The mini pill and your sex drive

All contraceptive pills contain hormones, however, the mini pill only contains progestin. This can be a massive bonus when it comes to your sex drive.

This is because changes to your estrogen levels can play a major role in lowering your libido. Low levels of estrogen can make you feel less turned on or interested in sex. However, it can also mean your body doesn't react to sexual situations in the same way.

Lower estrogen levels can also cause vaginal dryness. This means that if you do have sex, try using lubricants. If you don't lubricate properly this can make sex, especially penetrative sex, very painful.

This is one of the main reasons why the combined pill can seriously lower libido. Thankfully, the majority of women don't report the same issues when taking the mini pill. In fact, some even report an increase in their sex drive!

The progestin in the mini pill is much less likely to affect your estrogen levels. As a result, your libido should generally be less affected when taking the mini pill.

Mood changes and the mini pill

While the mini pill is less likely to affect your estrogen levels, it can affect your sex drive in other ways.

Any changes in your mental health or mood swings can have a big impact on your sex drive. This may mean that you find it difficult to think about sex or that you no longer find the same things arousing.

If this is happening, try keeping a record of your mood swings. This can help you identify potential triggers for them. If you are concerned about your mental health, it is very important to reach out for professional support.

Talking through your mood swings with a sexual partner can help to relieve any stress you might feel about them. This can also improve the emotional connection between you and your sexual partner or partners. This will do the world of good for your libido.

What to do if your pill is affecting your libido

A decrease in your libido can be caused by a range of different factors and your pill could be one of them.

In that case, start by tracking changes in your mood and other symptoms to see if you can identify a pattern. If you do think that your pill is affecting your libido, there are plenty of things that you can do.

You might want to switch to a different type of pill or try a different brand. Some brands are more commonly associated with certain side effects. Your doctor should be able to recommend the best brand to suit you.

Taking a break from your pill can be a good way to determine whether or not it is the cause of your lower libido.

If your libido picks up after you stop taking the pill then you've found your cause! In the meantime, make sure that you use barrier methods of contraception so that you can enjoy stress (and baby) free sex! Your doctor will be able to give you more information on different types of contraception to suit you.

Get support with your libido

As you've probably realized by now, a lot of people experience low libido at some point in their lives. So if you are struggling with this, you are definitely not alone.

If you have been taking the combined pill as contraception, switching to the mini pill may help to boost your sex drive. So it is worth speaking with your sexual partners and to your doctor about your contraceptive options.

Another great option is to think about going to sex therapy. I know what you're thinking, so we've answered all the questions right here: Everything you need to know about sex therapy. Now going to an actual sex therapist might be a step to far for you, because of cost, local availability, waiting lists, or just that you feel scared. That's okay! That's why we built Blueheart, a digital sex therapy app to help you get your libido back. We do this with a technique called Sensate Focus. Sensate Focus is the most effective technique used by sex therapists all over the world to help people overcome libido problems.

Blueheart is the only app that uses Sensate Focus to overcome libido problems. You'd receive the same exercises you'd be given by an in-the-room therapist, but you can do it all from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

To see how you can bring your libido back whatever your contraceptive choices, check out the Blueheart app. We're here to help.

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