Sextion: Birth control and your libido


Hormonal contraceptives are no doubt one of the most important medical breakthroughs in women’s health since they were first brought to the public in the 1960s. A pill a day keeps the baby away.  However, there is something about the pill that frequently goes unmentioned – not the most common side effect, but not entirely unheard of either. For certain women, being on birth control lowers their libido and erases their sexual enjoyment, defeating the point of taking the pill in the first place.

Fewer orgasms, less frequent sex, difficulty getting aroused – those are just some of the possible side-effects of birth control that you won’t be reading on the side of this month’s pill package.

Throughout a menstrual cycle, hormonal fluctuation can alter a woman’s facial appearance, body odor, and vocal pitch. When she’s ovulating, these changes make her more attractive to men because they indicate fertility. Since the pill works by tricking the body into thinking that it is already pregnant, the pill inhibits ovulation and women taking it miss out on that peak fertile period during which they normally would be traipsing around oozing sex appeal.  Women may lose the time during the menstrual cycle when they are most attractive to men- and most easily sexually aroused.

Not only can the quality of your sex life depreciate, but you also might end up looking at your partner one day and realizing that you’re not attracted to them anymore.

Fickle as women can be, the pill might be affecting more of our judgment than we expect.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the “Sweaty T-Shirt Study:” the gist of it is that women are more attracted to the scent of men whose genetic make-up is different from their own.  Being on the pill has been said to limit a women’s ability to choose men, in part because oral contraceptives throw off our sense of smell.  During a woman’s fertile period, she may prefer more masculine and symmetrical male features. However, during the infertile parts of their cycle, women tend to prefer less masculine faces and are more attracted to men that make better long-term partners.  So when a woman’s body is held in a perpetual state of fake pregnancy, her views of the opposite sex may change. By altering normally cycling hormones, women will certainly be able to prevent pregnancy, but at the same time they might inadvertently be altering their choice of what qualities they’re attracted to.

If you are sexually active, you should always be taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself. I’m not condoning unsafe sex by any means, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that some women in monogamous relationships make the choice to solely rely on hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy- it can increase intimacy in a monogamous relationship if there’s no risk of contracting an STI.

There is no reason a woman who is sexually active should not be protecting herself from an unwanted pregnancy. That being said, I think we women need to be aware of the risks our libido faces when taking the pill. Every body is different and the specific brand of the pills we use and our own body chemistry affects how we experience different forms of birth control. In fact, some women’s libido actually increases with the use of the pill. But if yours does not, know that you are not alone. Talk to your doctor about trying a new pill brand to see if it has a different effect, or ask about other, less libido-decreasing types of contraception. Your sexual pleasure should not have to be compromised when it comes to your sexual health.

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See you next week!

Much love,


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