When things got serious in her relationship with John, Mary decided to start taking the combined birth control pill. Her doctor told her to look out for side effects like mood swings, tender breasts, and weight gain. But Mary wasn’t prepared for the effect it had on her libido – after she started taking the pill she found she just wasn’t in the mood for sex very often.
That’s because some women, like Mary, may be more sensitive to the changes in testosterone levels in their body when they start taking a hormonal contraceptive, the study found. It was one of the first to look at this important side to birth control methods like the pill and the vaginal ring.
Fifty-five couples, most of whom were students, enrolled in the study. Each woman took three different kinds of hormonal contraception – the combined pill, the progestin-only pill, and the vaginal ring, each for three months.
Then the researchers asked both partners about their sexual desire, psychological and sexual health, and how satisfied they were in their relationship. They also took blood samples from the women to measure differences in how their bodies reacted to hormonal contraception.
Vaginal ring beats the pill
A woman’s desire to have sex also has a lot to do with factors not related to contraception, the research showed. One of the most important is her partner – the more he’s into sex, the more likely she will be too. Another factor seems pretty obvious – being in a good mood also drives a woman’s desire to jump into bed with her lover.
And though some women are more sensitive to the effects of hormonal contraceptives, when it comes to sexual desire, not all methods are equal. When women used the vaginal ring, they had a stronger sex drive and were more often in the mood than when they took either kind of birth control pill.
In the end, human sexuality really is affected by many things, the researchers say – from the purely psychological, to whether a relationship is going well, to ups and downs in hormone levels, to genes. Being in the mood for sex has to do with how they all interact with each other.