In today’s edition of extremely obvious news, one common perk of birth control is that you can have a lot more sex with a lot less worrying about possibly dealing with an unintended pregnancy. But in an entirely unfair outcome, sometimes birth control can make you completely uninterested in sex. On the flip side, it can also make your libido skyrocket to the point where you’re ready to give up all your daily responsibilities and just spend the rest of your life in bed. Here, ob/gyns explain why birth control can either decrease or increase your sex drive, and what to do if you’re not happy with its effects.
In some cases, birth control can make you feel like your sole purpose in life is to have sex.
The sex-drive boost is likely psychological, not physical, but it’s real all the same. “If getting pregnant is the last thing you want to do, when you have a good method [of birth control] that you have confidence in, your desire tends to go up,” Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. Cheers to you if this is your experience!
More often, birth control affects libido negatively, and it’s because of hormones.
The Pill can be a culprit because of the hormones it involves and how it plays with their amounts (so can birth control like NuvaRing, which is very similar to the Pill). “They work by suppressing the ovaries, which normally make three hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone,” Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Medical School, tells SELF.
Testosterone is often linked at least partially with sex drive, but birth control pills only offer estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone) or just progestin—not testosterone. “If your testosterone is lowered, you may not feel like having sex,” says Minkin.
In a double whammy, experts suspect that progestin might also have a downer effect on libido, says Hutcherson. That can factor in with the Pill, but it can also be an issue in longer-lasting hormonal methods of contraception like the IUD andimplant, which rely on various kinds of progestin to get the job done.
Minkin notes that this is by no means a universal effect. “I can’t say in good conscience that [this happens to everybody],” she says. “Plenty of my patients take birth control pills and love to have sex.”
If non-hormonal contraception affects your sex drive, it’ll likely be because of side effects. Take the ParaGard IUD, for example. It can cause heavier, crampier periods, at least in the months after insertion when your body is adjusting. “Anything that makes you feel bad can decrease desire,” says Hutcherson.
If your birth control is affecting your sex drive in a way you’re not happy about, you can troubleshoot with the help of a medical professional.
Minkin explains that your doctor can possibly prescribe a different Pill with a lower amount of progestin, which might help get your libido back to normal levels, or otherwise help you find alternate birth control that doesn’t wallop your sex drive. If the situation is dire, doctors may also be able to offer you testosterone compounds in low doses, although that’s a much rarer treatment than just switching birth control methods. “I want people using good birth control, but there’s no reason to sacrifice libido—we have lots of options,” says Minkin.