Dear Dr. Myrtle,
I heard that birth control pills decrease sex drive in women. Is this true? Is there any way to increase the sex drive without going off the pill? I am on quite a low dose already.
Birth control pills work because they replicate the hormonal signals of pregnancy. In other words, new pregnancies can’t occur because the body thinks it’s already pregnant, so ovulation (the ripening and release of an egg from the ovaries) doesn’t occur.
You’ve hormonally tricked your body into thinking that you’re pregnant. So the next question is, what happens to your libido when you are pregnant? Anything, absolutely anything. It may go up, it may go down, it may go up then down, down then up, or it may not change at all. To answer your question, yes - the pill can decrease libido (sex drive) in some women, while others find an increase or no change. Many things can cause fluctuations in libido, and for most women, the thoughts that you have are more important influences on libido than hormonal influences.
Recently, more evidence of this birth control-low libido correlation has come to light. It seems that birth control pills can alter the amount of available testosterone in a woman’s body, which can in turn decrease her libido. Moreover, some women have found that it can take months for their libidos to go back to previous levels once they stop taking birth control pills. This information is still being verified by various studies, so I encourage you to search the Internet for the latest information, if you choose.
I really advocate women finding out more about their own arousal and pleasures. Pleasure is less often something that someone "gives to you"; rather, it is more often something you participate in, or orchestrate all together. It’s important to be able to communicate to someone else what you like, as well as how and when you like it, and what you like to be doing at the same time. But if you don’t know what you like, how can you plan that for yourself or communicate it to others?
Once you understand how pleasure and arousal work for you, you can "tweak" your arousal process using erotic fantasies, erotic movies, and erotic stories. You can purposefully choose to turn yourself on, and share with your partner what he or she can do to help you get turned on more successfully.
Libido is really something you can play with, if you choose to do so. So if you find that your body isn’t giving you the physical signals for sex, get your brain in gear and give your body a nudge in the right direction.