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Does The Pill Reduce Libido?

24 March, 2023

If you’re thinking about starting a course of birth control, there are lots of questions you might have. And for many of us, the main question we ask is: does the pill reduce libido? You’re considering birth control for a reason, and this is the last side effect you want.

In this guide, we look at the facts, exploring what types of pills are available to you, whether or not they actually lower your sex drive, why it might happen, and what you can do to prevent it. Let’s get started.

How does the contraceptive pill work?

We call it “the pill”. You call it “the pill”. Even our doctor calls it “the pill”. But the term actually refers to a number of different contraceptive tablets, many of which contain either one or both of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, albeit in artificial form.

Even though the term “the pill” is used in a broad sense, there are actually several different types of contraceptive tablets, with various different formulations and dosages. Here are the most common:

  • Combined pill: a combination of oestrogen and progesterone. Usually taken once a day for 21 days (and sometimes 9 weeks), with a short 4-7 day break in-between. It can also be taken continuously.

  • Mini pill: containing only progesterone, the progesterone-only pill (also known as POP) can be taken once a day, every day, with no breaks in-between.

  • Low-dose combined: contains oestrogen and progesterone, although with less oestrogen than the standard combined pill. Like the combined pill, this is usually taken once a day for 21 days, with a short 4-7 day break in-between.

While there are lots of different types of pills, they all broadly work in the same way, by introducing artificial hormones into the body to prevent it from ovulating (releasing an egg).

Contraceptive pill side effects

However, like most medications, the pill can come with some side effects. These vary depending on the type of pill but can include:

  • Higher blood pressure

  • Irregular bleeding

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Tender breasts

  • Mood swings

Despite this, most people believe that the benefits of the pill far outweigh any possible side effects.

Does the pill reduce libido?

We all know someone, either a friend or even yourself, that has experienced a noticeable drop in libido after taking the pill. But does the pill actually decrease your sex drive?

In truth, there’s a little more to it, and results can vary depending on the type of pill taken.

In one 2013 study, for instance, researchers found that 15% of women reported a reduced libido after starting a course of the combined pill. However, 21% of respondents in the same study reported an increased libido, and most reported no change at all.

However, the mini pill contains only progestin, and is less likely to impact your libido — we’ll go into this in-depth in the next section.

The fact is that everybody is different, and everyone’s body is different too. Everyone has different body chemistry and hormone levels, meaning they will react to the pill in different ways.

Why does the pill decrease libido?

While it isn’t a universal experience for all women, the pill can reduce your libido. But why is this? There are many theories why the pill decreases your sex drive, with one concerning your hormones.

The combined pill works by releasing progesterone and oestrogen, hormones that stop your body from ovulating by lowering your testosterone — yes, it’s a female hormone too. The lower testosterone you have, the lower your libido.

As such, if you already have generally high levels of testosterone, the combined pill might not affect your libido as much. But if you have low existing levels of testosterone, your libido will feel the hit more as a result.

It is the oestrogen in the combined pill that impacts your body’s testosterone, reducing it (and your libido) into the process, leading us to our next theory on why the pill impacts your sex drive.

Lower levels of oestrogen can lead to a loss of interest in sex, as well as vaginal dryness. As the combined pill affects your body’s oestrogen levels, these factors can all contribute to a reduced libido, whether it’s because you’ve lost that loving feeling or because improperly lubricated sex can be painful or uncomfortable.

Another theory why the pill might reduce your sex drive is that birth control pills trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant. By preventing ovulation, the pill increases your body’s progesterone levels. As the same thing happens during pregnancy, the body reacts accordingly, disrupting your libido as a result.

Causes of low libido: what else can affect your sex drive?

Before you go cancelling your prescription and throwing your pills in the bin, it’s worth noting that a reduced libido can be caused by any number of factors. Here are a few of the most common causes of a low libido you should know.

  • Stress: whether it’s work, school or something personal, high and prolonged feelings of stress can result in a diminished libido.

  • Medication: lots of prescription medications, while treating other conditions, can lead to a reduced libido. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a particularly common example.

  • Mental health: mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety, can result in a loss of interest and enjoyment in sex.

  • Drinking alcohol: while the odd drink might make you feel in the mood, excessive alcohol actually has the inverse effect, especially over the long term.

  • Menopause: hormonal changes brought about by menopause can result in a loss of libido.

  • Unresolved sexual trauma: a difficult or upsetting sexual experience, especially early on in life, can make it harder to enjoy sex.

Don’t suffer in silence. If you think any of the above factors might be causing your low sex drive, speak to a doctor or therapist.

Sex drive after stopping the pill

With all this to think about, it’s natural that you might be concerned about your sex drive after stopping the pill.

Thankfully, once you stop taking the pill, your sex drive will eventually return to its normal levels. Your levels of progesterone and oestrogen change while your body returns to its normal state, and any hormonal changes will also cease.

However, it can take up to three months for your body’s hormonal levels to return to normal, so have patience.

How to increase libido while on the pill

Struggling with a low libido while on the pill? Don’t sweat it — there are plenty of ways you can naturally boost your sex drive, even while taking a course on birth control. Here are a few to get you started.

  • Give your testosterone a boost: testosterone isn’t just for men. Top up your levels with a course of natural testosterone cream from Hormones And You and give your energy, libido and confidence a much-needed lift.

  • Get some exercise: even though exercise can seem gruelling at the time, that energised feeling you get afterwards extends to your libido too. Exercise regularly and with a variety of workouts to boost your mood and your sex drive.

  • Sleep your way to a better sex drive: even our libidos need a rest once in a while. A solid night of 7-8 hours of sleep helps keep your body working as it should — including your sex drive.

  • Boost your mental health: stress, depression, anxiety — these are all huge mood-killers. Take steps to reduce your stress, or speak to a therapist to help manage your mental health.

How our team can help

Reduced libido can be a source of immense stress and concern, whether it’s due to the pill or not. But with Hormones And You, we’re here to help you rekindle that fire and increase your sex drive.

Take our online assessment to discover how our range of accessible, natural and personalised solutions can help you get your libido back where you want it.

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