Birth control and libido

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In this video, we’re going to talk about birth control and how it might be affecting your desire. I love birth control. I think the fact that women get to choose when and when not to have a baby is so exciting, and it makes such a difference in our lives and in the lives of women everywhere, so I definitely don’t want to be seen as bashing birth control.

But I do think that if you’re having trouble with low desire, it’s important to know how the birth control that you’ve chosen might be affecting it.

When we talk about the most common form of birth control—that’s the birth control pill, most frequently containing estrogen and progesterone—those are called combination oral contraceptive pills. And whenever we look at the studies behind these, we really see that the data is mixed. In some studies, it will improve desire, in other studies the desire will be less. For most women, however, it doesn’t actually have an effect on desire.

Other types of birth control that are common including a vaginal ring or a patch that goes on the skin. The data for those are also mixed. In some studies it shows improvement; in some studies it shows that it’s worse.

I always tell my patients that if you’re having great desire, and then you start on a new birth control and your desire tanks, that tells me it’s probably your birth control. But if you’ve been on the same birth control for ages and then your desire goes down, it’s less likely to have to do with your birth control and more likely to be something else.

Other types of birth control that are popular right now are IUDs. These are intrauterine devices that go in the uterus to prevent against pregnancy for several years. One popular type is made of copper. It doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on sexual function. There’s another group that has progesterone in them, and there is some data to suggest they might improve sexual function and desire. However, I have an occasional patient who thinks, “You know what, this IUD actually made my desire go out the window.” It’s important to listen to patients on an individual basis because every woman experiences symptoms differently.

If you’re having trouble with pelvic pain from endometriosis or fibroids, or you’re avoiding sex because you’re always bleeding or having heavy bleeding, or you have pain from an ovarian cyst, those are reasons your doctor might start you on birth control. Because you’re controlling those symptoms, your desire and your sexual function might improve, so that’s another way to think about birth control.

Whenever you’re thinking, “Is my birth control doing this? Is it not?” it’s important to keep in mind that one size does not fit all when it comes to birth control. Every woman reacts differently, and it might affect her libido differently too. If you think your birth control might be the problem, make an appointment with your doctor so you can discuss which birth control options might be better for you and your certain situation. That way we can help you stay healthy both in and out of the bedroom.

Learn more with sex education videos in the Rosy App. Rosy is the first evidence-based mobile platform designed by doctors and psychologists to help you regain sexual desire.

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