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Can The Pill Affect Your Sex Drive? We Asked The Experts

The decision to take contraception can be a complicated one, and what happens once you begin can vary from person to person.

But one side effect that is pretty undesirable – is a change in your sex drive. According to Healthline, 15% of people taking oral contraceptives have reported a decrease in libido.

So GLAMOUR looked into it, and there’s a lot to consider. According to Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist and sex and relationship coach, it’s important to be clear on the difference between sex drive and libido. “Sex drive is a social construction and libido is the physiological effects of how our body responds to arousal,” she says.

What is going on in terms of how much you crave sex can come from the things going on inside your own body, but also in your life and general surroundings.

Sarah Welsh, gynaecologist and co-founder of sexual and intimate wellness brand Hanx, adds that the gap between medical research according to gender “looms large” here. “Studies into the effect of taking the pill on libido are few and far between,” she says. “One theory is that taking the combined oral contraceptive pill lowers the level of testosterone in the body, which is thought to decrease sex drive.”

It may be that you don’t recognise a difference at all – Cooper says that studies have shown around 15% of people taking hormonal contraception have reported reduced sexual response and libido. 

If you are noticing a difference, here’s everything you need to know.

Every human body is different

Due to the fact that every human body has a slightly different reaction to contraception, the pill has been found to both increase and decrease libido across users.

In terms of the effect of testosterone in hormonal contraception affecting sex drive, Cooper advises: “Some individuals affected by this may find the hormonal levels normalise over time after taking the pill for a few months.”

Even the mini pill, which contains less hormones than the combined pill, has been known to cause sexual dysfunction for some. “The mini pill can lower estrogen in some and this can also make it harder to respond to sexual stimulation and can lead to vaginal dryness,” Cooper says.

On the other hand, in some cases taking hormonal contraception has resulted in an increase in libido, Cooper says, particularly when it is being taken to alleviate symptoms from pre-existing conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

The pill isn’t the only thing that affects your sex drive

“Sex drive is very individual and can be impacted by anything from the relationship you have with your sexual partner(s), your level of stress, cultural factors, and also how you feel about using contraception,” Welsh advises.

The security that comes with protecting yourself from unwanted pregnancy through contraception may well make you feel more engaged and comfortable, for instance, and therefore improve your sexual experiences.

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