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Did you know that birth control could be affecting your sex life? You may think this is obvious if you’re a woman, but many people do not realize how oral contraceptives, more commonly known as “the pill,” can affect many aspects of life outside its intended effect of pregnancy prevention.
What’s even more surprising, though, is that birth control might be affecting your sex life even if you’re a man. That’s right: Even if you’re a man who does not take hormonal birth control, the pill could still be affecting your life in various ways, especially in the bedroom.
How could this be? If you don’t consume this medication yourself, how could it possibly affect your life? In this article, we’ll take a look at how the birth control pill could be affecting your sex life, whether you are a man or a woman, in both positive and negative ways.
How Birth Control can Affect a Woman’s Sex Life
There are a wide variety of things that can affect a woman’s sex life, from a proper diet to exercise, relationship satisfaction, job trajectory, and more. But changes happen on a biological level, too. Changing a woman’s hormones changes her brain, and that is a fact we can’t get away from, no matter how much we enjoy the ease and convenience of hormonal birth control. While the advent of hormonal birth control was one of the best things to happen to the advancement of womankind, we must recognize that it has its drawbacks, too.
One of the biggest and most commonly talked about drawbacks of the pill is the potential it has to dampen a woman’s sex drive. Healthline explains it this way: “Hormonal birth control is incredibly effective at preventing pregnancy, but it can also contribute to some unwanted side effects, including decreased libido. You might generally agree that the benefits of birth control — namely, preventing pregnancy — outweigh a potential decrease in libido. All the same, a noticeable change in sexual desire may not necessarily be, well, desirable.”
It is well established that many women on the pill experience a significantly lower libido than women who cycle naturally without the interference of hormonal medications. Research shows that women on the pill have sex less frequently and are more likely to experience discomfort, which could be the result of lacking the hormone surge that comes along with ovulation.
Blueheart reports, “Most birth control pills, known as combined oral contraceptives, are made of estrogen and progesterone. When a woman takes the birth control pill, it boosts her levels of these two hormones. Because her hormone levels are so high, her body is unable to produce an egg, which stops her from being able to get pregnant. The trouble is, the ovaries produce male hormones, known as androgens, that drive libido in women. When the ovaries are being suppressed, a woman is not producing as many androgens. While the lack of ovulation may prevent a woman from getting pregnant, it may also prevent her from getting in the mood thanks to the lack of androgens. Without these sexual desire driving hormones, it becomes trickier for women to get turned on.”
If you’re a woman experiencing low libido or a total loss of interest in sex while being on the pill, rest assured that you are certainly not alone. Remember that this applies to any form of hormonal birth control, not just oral contraceptives (the pill). Other forms of hormonal birth control, which can also affect sex drive, include the patch, the shot, the implant, and even the hormonal IUD.
For some women, the female version of Viagra may be a life-saver in the bedroom.
Types of hormonal and non-hormonal birth control
There are many types of birth control on the market. However, not all of them are hormonal. For example, many women opt to get a copper IUD implanted in their uterus for non-hormonal protection against pregnancy. Other non-hormonal options are female and male condoms, diaphragms, spermicide, and more.
Still, perhaps the most common type of birth control is hormonal. While there’s also a hormonal IUD, alternatives include the Estring Vaginal Ring or oral contraceptives like Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo. For emergency backup after unprotected sex, there is the Plan B Emergency Contraceptive.
There are many different types of birth control out there. For women and men who do not want sex to result in pregnancy, they must choose a type of contraception that fits their needs, desires, and lifestyle.
How birth control can affect a man’s sex life
Did you know that there is evidence suggesting that women may choose sexual partners and life partners differently when on the pill vs when off the pill?
Dr. Sarah Hill explains, “The pill suppresses ovulation, which means it also suppresses estrogen. This can cause pill-taking women to choose partners for reasons other than physical attraction (like financial fitness). That may be a plus, but it also means there’s a risk that going off the pill means finding out you are not attracted to the partner you chose while on it.”
In other words, the pill can affect a man’s sex life depending in part on how sexy he is perceived to be (or not) by other women, including his own partner, if he has one. If he is struggling with erectile dysfunction, this can be another major factor in what goes on under the sheets.
In addition, the pill can affect motivation in both men and women, which is closely linked to sex drive and sex life. Dr. Hill explains, “Women on the pill are attaining higher levels of education and achievement in fields previously closed to them, like law, medicine, science, government, and business. Interestingly, though, the pill may have the opposite effect on men, since they no longer need to fight as hard to prove themselves worthy of sex.”
Because part of men’s biological motivation is tied to their sex drive, if they do not have to work as hard to impress a mate or attract a partner, they may achieve less overall in their lives.
But wait, there’s more! Dr. Hill writes that “the scent of naturally cycling women varies through the month, with the fertility signal being most attractive to men.” However, the pill suppresses these signals and women who are on the pill are never in a fertile phase during which their attractiveness to men would seem to be boosted. They do not feel this spike in sexiness and men are not picking up on the unconscious fertility signals.
Believe it or not, men are affected by the behavior of the women they encounter in life, and their sexual interactions with women (on or off the pill) can have a ripple effect across many other aspects of their life.
Birth control could boost your sex life
However, there’s another side to this. For some women, the anxiety around potentially getting pregnant is even worse than any potential side effects of birth control. Plus, some women experience minimal side effects.
Obviously, if you’re terrified of having intercourse because of the possibility of winding up with an unintended pregnancy, you’re surely not ever going to be in the mood! That’s why, for some women, birth control can provide the mental reassurance needed to fully relax, let go, and enjoy having sex. If they feel they are fully protected against an unwanted pregnancy, they may be more willing to engage sexually and feel more relaxed and eager to participate while doing so.
As a study published in the National Library of Medicine explains, “Another factor that can positively influence women’s sexuality is the certainty of not wanting children. Hormonal contraceptives are a highly effective form of contraception; they help to eliminate anxiety related to the fear of pregnancy, encouraging an easier and more enjoyable sexual experience.”
Obviously, this benefits both men and women! For a consensual and mutually pleasurable sexual encounter, it takes two to tango. A woman must be willing and eager to engage sexually, and both parties must be attracted to each other. If a woman feels safe having sex because she is on the pill, it may be a better option for her sex life and the sex lives of any partner she chooses.
Whether or not oral contraceptives are the right choice for you is a personal decision that should be made with the input and advice of your doctor, depending on your unique biological makeup and life situation. Remember that birth control affects everyone in different ways, so be aware, educate yourself, and keep a journal to document your experiences both on and off the pill.
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