Q: If birth control takes away my libido, how do I get it back?
Choosing a birth control method that prevents pregnancy, only to have it seemingly zap your libido is a big bummer. Some people report changes in their sex drive once they introduce hormonal birth control, like the Pill or the patch or even the ring. But are those BC methods really to blame? Or could there be something else going on?
The short answer is: Both? According to a 2013 analysis published in the European Journal of Contraceptive and Reproductive Health Care of36 studies published between 1975 and 2011 that examined the effects of hormonal birth control on libido, 62 percent of people who were on the Pill felt an increase in sex drive after going on the Pill; 22 percent didn’t notice any change; and 15 percent had a lower libido. So it would seem that most people experience some effect on libido, even if most of those people aren’t experiencing drops.
On the other hand, we do know that hormonal birth control stops ovulation, which happens in your ovaries. Guess what your ovaries also do? Produce testosterone — and testosterone affects sex drive in people of all sexes. So could hormonal BC be messing with that function? Maybe. Another effect that hormonal BC may have on testosterone is prompting an increase in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which binds to testosterone and makes it so there's less floating around in your system. Finally, blocking ovulation may block the mid-cycle testosterone boost that leads to many of us feeling suuuuuper horny around ovulation.
But lots of people feel like hormonal birth control affects their sex drive! And they can't all be psychosomatic, right? The problem with saying definitively that hormonal BC affects sex drive or doesn't affect sex drive is two-fold. First, there are so many factors that can and do affect libido in each individual, so it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what's going on. Second, this is a health issue where the science just isn't great yet, so we're going to have to piece together a few different things to get a clearer idea of what's going on.
If you’re feeling like your birth control is affecting your sex drive, there could be a few different factors, some of which aren’t about the hormones at all, and some of which might be about the hormones! Let’s take a look at what those potential causes are, because the key to getting back your libido could be in figuring out what made you lose it in the first place.