How to Increase Sex Drive While on Birth Control

Have you been experiencing a low sex drive or libido while on birth control? 

You are not the only one. 

In the early 1910s, a nurse named Margaret Sanger thought of a way to prevent pregnancy, one that she eventually termed “birth control.” 

Sanger is considered one of the pioneers in modern birth control, which has long evolved since the 1910s. 

Now, modern birth control methods are not only limited to oral contraceptive pills but also barrier and surgical methods. 

Ever since modern birth control was introduced, there have been plenty of success stories, including its contribution to maternal and child health. 

However, modern birth control is also associated with low sex drive in some women. 

Read on to learn more about birth control, its side effects, including low sex drive, and how to overcome and increase it.

What is birth control?

Birth control is also known as family planning and contraception. The word contraception is derived from the prefix “contra-” which means against, and the term “conception,” which is the act of conceiving a child. 

Birth control is an umbrella term to refer to the act of preventing pregnancy by using methods such as devices, medications, or surgical procedures. 

Access to effective and safe methods of birth control is different across the world. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 25% of women of reproductive age do not have access to modern birth control methods. In the United States (US), around 87% of women have access to birth control.

There are several aspects to consider when choosing the best birth control methods, such as safety, effectiveness, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability. 

Hence, proper contraceptive counseling and voluntary informed choice of contraception are important in ensuring successful birth control. 

What types of birth control are there?

Common methods of birth control include hormonal, barrier, natural, and surgical methods. Hormonal contraception acts by interfering with the hormones that promote pregnancies. 

1) Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception can be taken by mouth in the form of pills, or via an injection or an intrauterine device (IUD). 

An IUD is a device that is inserted into the uterine cavity by a healthcare provider. While in the uterine cavity, it releases hormones that can prevent pregnancies.

2) Barrier contraception

Barrier contraception acts by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg, hence preventing pregnancy. 

Male latex condoms are an example of barrier contraception that offers dual protection against pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

3) Surgical procedures

Surgical procedures, sometimes known as sterilization, are permanent ways of birth control. It is usually done for people who are certain that their family is complete and do not wish for more children in the future.

4) Natural birth control methods

Natural methods do not involve any devices or manipulation of the body’s hormone levels to prevent pregnancies. 

Natural methods are sometimes known as fertility awareness. This method involves tracking your menstruation, appearance, and texture of your cervical mucus, and basal temperature to predict ovulation, which is when the woman is most fertile. 

The fertile window begins around 5 days before ovulation. Natural methods are not as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods of contraception. 

However, it is still useful, especially for some people who do not want or are unable to use modern contraception, such as hormonal pills or barrier contraception. 

5) Birth control pills

In the United States, the most common birth control method is birth control pills. Birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) often contain the hormones progesterone and estrogen, or progesterone only. 

Effective birth control is a way of family planning which allows the freedom to have children when desired, without fear of unwanted pregnancies. 

The effectiveness of birth control can be measured using the Pearl Index is defined as the number of pregnancies per 100 women over a year while using the birth control method. The lower the Pearl Index, the more effective the method. 

The following table summarizes the different birth control methods and how they work.

MethodExamplesHow Does It Work?
HormonalCombined oral contraceptive pills (COCP)
Progesterone-only pills (POP) 
Vaginal rings
Skin patches
Implants 
Injection Intrauterine devices (IUD) 
The hormones estrogen and progesterone block the release of eggs from the ovaries and alter the environment in the female reproductive tract to prevent pregnancy. 
Barrier Male condoms*
Cervical caps
Diaphragms
An external tool used to block sperm from reaching the egg, thereby preventing pregnancy. 
Natural Fertility awareness-based method
Basal body temperature
Cervical mucus method
Withdrawal method
Lactation amenorrhea method
Based on the observation of the menstrual cycle and avoidance of sexual intercourse during the fertile window to avoid pregnancy.
Surgical Vasectomy for males
Bilateral tubal ligation (BTL) for females 
A permanent birth control for people who are certain that they do not want children in the future.

*Condoms offer dual protection against pregnancies and STDs, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. 

While contraception is used widely to prevent pregnancies and provide more control over your reproductive health, they also come with other benefits, such as improving acne problems and controlling heavy menstrual bleeding.

What are the side effects of birth control?

There are several side effects associated with contraception use, especially hormonal contraception. 

Some of the common side effects are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Painful or tender breasts
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Change in sex drive or libido

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What is libido?

Libido is your sexual desire or sexual drive. It includes your desire to engage in sexual activity with others and in self-pleasure or masturbation. 

Approximately 20 to 30% of women encounter low sex drive or loss of libido. Loss of libido causes a relative decrease in the intensity or frequency of sexual desires. 

Low sex drive can be caused by:

  • Hormonal changes during menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and contraception use
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Stress or fatigue
  • Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
  • Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants
  • Relationship issues such as poor communication and unresolved conflicts

Can birth control cause low sex drive?

Yes, for some people. According to a 2013 study, 15% of women experienced low sex drive while using hormonal contraception such as COCP. 

However, in the same study, the majority of the participants reported no change in their sex drive, and even 21% of them reported that they experienced a higher sex drive. 

Hormonal contraceptives work by releasing hormones to prevent pregnancy. For certain people, the change in hormones can give rise to different side effects, including low sex drive. 

However, the science behind how birth control causes low sex drive is not well-known yet. Regardless, it is clear that this matter affects some people. 

burning after sex

Symptoms of low sex drive in women

The most telling symptom of low sex drive in women is having little to no interest in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation. 

There is no objective measurement of sex drive. Hence any decrease in sex drive from what is previously considered normal to you may indicate low sex drive. 

Other symptoms of low sex drive include decreased sexually-themed thoughts or fantasies and being worried or concerned about the lack of sexual activities or fantasies. 

How to increase your sex drive while on birth control

If you are concerned or bothered about having a low sex drive while on birth control, there are several methods to increase your libido. 

5 natural methods to increase sex drive

1) Communicate with your partner

Sometimes, sex is more than just about hormones. The mood for sex also depends on the time, your partner(s), and place. 

For some women, sexual intimacy and emotional closeness can heighten their sexual experience with their partner. 

Communicating with your partner allows you to understand each other’s needs and wants before, during, and after sex. 

It includes checking in and having conversations about consent and contraceptives with your partner. It also allows you to learn about their preference and concerns, hence building confidence and comfort around each other. 

Communicating with your partner shows them that you care about them and their sexual experience with you. 

Maintaining good communication with your partner can help resolve ongoing conflicts and enhance your sexual experience.

2) Sex therapy and counseling

If your low sex drive is bothering you, consider talking to a licensed counselor or a sex therapist who is skilled in addressing your concerns. 

Sex therapy may involve you or you and your partner. Your therapist may provide recommendations on reading materials or exercises. 

Sometimes, they may assign sexual experimentation to help improve your sexual experience and libido. 

A licensed counselor can also help to moderate and facilitate conflict resolution among couples. 

During couples counseling, you and your partner can work out ongoing relationship issues and, in turn, improve intimacy and sex drive. 

sex therapy

3) Spicing things up in bed

When you feel like your usual routine is getting dull, you can explore more creative methods to try in bed. 

Spicing things up in bed through role-playing, dirty-talking, and using sex toys can fuel your sexual excitement and boost your sex drive

Some people are better stimulated after watching erotica before or during sex. 

While spicing things up in bed may help increase your sex drive, it is crucial to gain consent from your partner before exploring more creative methods in bed.

4) Go solo

Sometimes, you just need some personal time with your body to acquaint yourself with its likes and dislikes. 

Masturbation can help you familiarize yourself with the sensations that pleasure you and hence, boost your libido. 

Sexual fantasies and thoughts that play out during masturbation can also be explored with your partner. 

Masturbation also allows you to warm up at your own pace and explore erogenous zones that can increase your sex drive. 

5) Trying some aphrodisiacs

Aphrodisiacs may help to boost your sex drive by regulating your testosterone levels. Food that contains higher levels of zinc, such as oysters, crabs, lobsters, red meat, salmon, and pine nuts, can improve your sex drive. 

A diet rich in flavonoids can boost your overall health and increase your sex drive. Examples of flavonoid-rich food are apples, strawberries, blueberries, and red wine

You should consume them in moderation. You should also consult your healthcare provider if you have doubts about consuming any of the above foods. 

aphrodisiac foods

4 medical treatments for loss of libido

In some conditions, medications can be used to improve sex drives, such as bupropion, flibanserin, and hormone therapy. 

You should consult your healthcare provider before taking any medications to treat low sex drive.

1) Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

Some medications can lower sex drive while some can increase sex drive. Interestingly, the antidepressant Bupropion (Wellbutrin) has been reported to improve libido in women, especially those with sexual dysfunction.

2) Flibanserin (Addyi) 

Another medication that can boost libido is Flibanserin (Addyi). Flibanserin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pre-menopausal women but not for post-menopausal women. 

Taking Flibanserin can cause side effects such as dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, and dry mouth. 

If you are taking Flibanserin, you should avoid taking fluconazole, a medication used to treat vaginal yeast infection, and drinking alcohol, as it can worsen the side effects. 

addyi side effects

3) Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy can help to improve sex drive by relieving certain symptoms that cause discomfort during sex.

 Some of the hormone therapies include estrogen, testosterone, prasterone, and ospemifene. They are available in different forms, such as pills, sprays, gels, and patches. 

Since taking hormones can influence other aspects of your body, please consult your healthcare provider to understand the pros and cons of hormone therapies for you. 

4) Rule out medical causes

Some people have low sex drive due to underlying medical conditions. Hence, it is important to rule out medical causes by consulting a healthcare professional about your symptoms. 

Some of these symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, pain, and mood changes. 

If you suspect that your loss of libido is due to the medications that you are taking, please consult with your healthcare provider. 

Some of the medications commonly associated with low sex drive are antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and paroxetine (Paxil). 

Your healthcare provider may perform some tests on you to determine the underlying cause of the loss of libido in order to treat it. 

These tests may include a pelvic examination as well as blood testing to rule out diseases such as diabetes, high blood cholesterol, liver disorders, and thyroid problems. 

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Can you take libido pills while on birth control?

Flibanserin (Addyi) is a recently FDA-approved drug used to treat low libido in premenopausal women. 

Studies have shown that the use of Addyi while on birth control pills is associated with a greater risk of side effects.

Some of the side effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, and fatigue, were more common in women who used hormonal contraceptives. 

How do you know when it is time to try a new method of birth control?

Some birth control methods require strict adherence to timing and use. Some methods may cause unwanted side effects. 

Here are some reasons to consider switching to a new birth control method:

1) You are concerned about some side effects of your current birth control

Common side effects of hormonal birth control are headaches, nausea, mood swings or mood changes, and irregular menses. 

Although these side effects typically only happen during the first few months, they may cause great discomfort. 

If you are not tolerating these side effects well, or if they continue to last, consider discussing an alternate birth control that has less of these side effects with your healthcare provider.

2) You forget or have difficulty remembering to use your current birth control

Contraceptive pills need to be taken daily at the same time, while latex condoms need to be worn before sex every time for them to work. 

If you have difficulty remembering to use them, it may be worthwhile to consider other methods that are longer-lasting. 

Long-lasting, reversible contraceptives such as IUDs and hormonal implants can work for years and are very effective in preventing pregnancies. Hormonal skin patches can last for months to years, offering you peace of mind too. 

You should speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about longer-lasting reversible contraceptives if you find yourself having difficulty in adhering to strict timing and use of your current birth control.

3) You are becoming or thinking of becoming more sexually active

If you are becoming more sexually active, it is important to protect yourself from STDs. The only birth control that can offer you protection against STDs is condoms. 

You should use a new condom from the start to the end every time you have vaginal, anal, and oral sex. 

When using lubricants on your condom, you should use water-based lubricants instead of oil-based lubricants like massage oils, lotions, and petroleum jelly. 

Using condoms properly can help to prevent pregnancies and STDs. Once you and your partner(s) are tested and clear of STDs, you can switch to other methods of birth control that better suit you. 

4) Your health status has changed

If you have recently developed or have a high chance of developing any health condition such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, migraines with aura, breast cancer, or if you have started smoking, you should proceed with caution when taking hormonal contraception. 

Older people are also at higher risk of health problems. Hence you should consult your healthcare provider on your birth control. 

Hormonal birth control has been associated with a higher risk of unwanted side effects such as blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. 

5) You have decided you do not want to get pregnant 

If you have decided that your family is complete or if you do not want to get pregnant, you can discuss longer-lasting birth control with your healthcare provider and your partner(s). 

There are longer-lasting and reversible methods like IUDs and implants, which can last for years, and permanent birth control, such as tubal ligation. 

risk factors for gestational diabetes

Is there any birth control that increases libido?

Evidence from a 2011 study shows that hormonal IUDs like Mirena and Kylena can increase libido. However, it is important to note that different birth control affects people differently. There is no single best method, and no one size fits all. 

The discussion of which birth control works best for you should be done with your partner(s) and healthcare provider. 

Here are some questions that you can ask your healthcare provider when deciding on your birth control: 

  • How effective is this method in preventing pregnancy?
  • How do I use it, and how does it work?
  • Where can I get it, and can I afford it?
  • How long does it take for it to work?
  • Will my partner like this method and help me use it?
  • What are the common side effects of this method?
  • What are its advantages and disadvantages?
  • How long can I use a particular birth control? Can I switch in the middle?
  • Will this method affect my ability to get pregnant in the future?

Conclusion

Access to modern contraceptive methods, especially highly effective contraceptive methods, can improve health outcomes and quality of life. 

Being on birth control should not mean depriving yourself of a healthy sex life. While the science behind low sex drive while on birth control is not well understood, it is undeniable that some women experience it. 

If you think your birth control is causing a low sex drive, you should consult your healthcare provider and ask about switching to another method of contraception or trying something new to increase your libido. 

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Sources

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