Here's How Birth Control Affects Your Sex Life

Birth control methods keep making headlines lately, with many women wondering what their birth control fate will be under a Trump presidency. But there's also something else to consider now since new research has come out revealing how birth control affects your sex life. The DL? It depends on the levels of estrogen and progesterone in various birth controls methods, according to The Science Explorer.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of New Mexico conducted the study, which appeared in the scientific journal Evolution & Human Behavior. Not only did they find that sex helps bond a couple, but also that there’s a correlation between the kind of oral contraception women use and how often couples have sex. Regarding women in long-term relationships who use hormonal contraception, the higher level of commitment to their partner, the more sex that’s had. “The function of sex in humans outside ovulation is an evolutionary mystery,” Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor of psychology at NTNU, said in the study. “But we believe that it has to do with binding the parties in the relationship together.”

Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN, and women’s health expert, agrees. “Sexual desire can be challenging to understand for women and men,” Dr. Ross tells Bustle. “Many known factors affect our desire, including the different types of birth control pills with varying amounts of estrogen and progesterone. This new study sheds light on how different types of contraception can also affect our sexual appetite and desire. The take-home message for women is, there are a number of kinds of birth control, and if you are having any negative side effects, especially in the bedroom, try another method to ensure it’s not the cause.”

ICYMI, different birth control methods contain different ingredients — some are hormonal contraceptives (like birth control pills) while others are not, and the levels of each hormone type vary from contraceptive to contraceptive, too.

Women who used contraception with more estrogen were most sexually active when in a less committed relationship.

In the study, women who used contraception with more estrogen were most sexually active when in a less committed relationship. But, women who used contraception with more progesterone were most sexually active when in a more committed relationship. And, just to clarify, the research was about sexual intercourse, not methods like oral sex and masturbation.

How was the study done? Norwegian heterosexual women answered questions about what methods and brands of birth control they used, as well as how committed they were to their partners. Two groups of women were surveyed. One consisted of 112 women on hormonal contraception and in committed relationships. They were tracked over a 12-week period and asked how often and when (in their cycle) they had sex. The other consisted of 275 women in LTRs on hormonal contraception. They were not followed over a certain time period, but were asked how many times they had sex in the past week. In-te-rest-ing, right?

Plus, the above study wanted to compare their results to a 2013 American study. In that one, 50 women had been surveyed — and none were on hormonal birth control. Hence, it was all about natural hormones. When women were invested in the relationship with their partner, they initiated sex more in the extended sexual phase — in other words, when they weren’t ovulating and progesterone was the dominant hormone.

“Birth control does affect one’s sexual function, and women are not necessarily controlled by their hormones,” Dr. Michael Krychman, executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine and co-author of The Sexual Spark: 20 Essential Exercises to Reignite the Passion, tells Bustle. “For some women, the estrogen in the BC pill will undergo a first-pass effect and travel to the liver, increasing sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which — when released into circulation — can cause the free testosterone to plummet exponentially. Lowered testosterone may lead to low desire, but some women do feel sexually liberated — no fear of pregnancy and no worries of painful periods or heavy bleeding (which all can be a buzzkill). So, while some oral contraceptives can cause hormones to shift and plummet, you may have a liberated or elevated mood and sexual revitalization.”

So, the recent study proved the above: that how often women have sex is related to how committed they are to their partner, as well as the hormone at play and how they affect you. You can even do a study of your own and see how often you and your partner have sex each week, and then see if it’s related to the type of hormonal birth control you’re on. In any case, it definitely gives you something to think about, right?

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle