Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pill Is Killing My Libido

Dr. Kate,

I'm a 28 year old married woman who isn't intending on having children. I've been on various birth control pills for about 10 years now. Some have made me moodier than others, but in general I've been satisfied, except for one issue. I feel as though my sex drive is diminishing more and more and more and almost doesn't exist now. I still enjoy sex, but never seem to want it enough to initiate, which has (as you can imagine) caused a few marital issues. Fortunately I have a very understanding husband, but I still want to solve this problem. I've read a lot recently about the hormones in birth control pills having this side effect. I am currently considering switching to an IUD and leaning towards the copper option to avoid ingesting more hormones. Do you think this is a wise choice and could/should help? Do you have any other suggestions?


Dear Desireless,

The pill's relationship to libido is a complicated one. Some women report decreased sex drive when they're on the pill, and other women report an increase in their drive. In studies where women using the pill are compared with women not using the pill, women complain about lower sex drive about equally in both groups. In other words, loss of libido is a common complaint, whether or not you're on the pill.

Paragard, the copper IUD, is an excellent birth control choice for many women who don't want to or can't use hormones. It's 99% effective and lasts for 10 years--especially good if you know you don't want children in the near future (or ever). It may make your periods heavier or longer, or increase your menstrual cramps, but taking ibuprofen or naproxen can help.

You may find, though, that stopping the birth control pill doesn't bring your libido back. Heaven knows there are plenty of reasons why you may not want to have sex--stress, illness, not having a very good time when you do have sex. And there's nothing wrong with not initiating as much as your partner, if you respond to his advances as much as you want to. So if changing your birth control doesn't change your libido, try to figure out what would make sex better for you, and enlist your husband in your efforts to achieve it.

Have you felt that your birth control has affected your sex drive?

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