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Hump Day: I Don't Like Hormonal Birth Control, So Now What?

Hump Day: I Don't Like Hormonal Birth Control, So Now What?

Welcome to Hump Day,TrèsSugar's sex advice column. Are you confused about sex? Do you have trouble having an orgasm? Is there something you'd like to try but you're worried it's too weird? Send your questions to TrèsSugar, and our friend Dr. Charlie Glickman from Good Vibrations will offer his sound advice!

Today's Question:

“I went to my OBGYN to ask about non-hormonal birth control. (The Pill basically ruined my sex drive.) She pushed the Pill and the Nuva Ring, and said that condoms have a 15 percent failure rate. I don’t like that she was pushing hormonal birth control. Is it possible for hormonal birth control to lower your desire, and if I don’t want to use it, what’s my best, and safest, bet?”

To hear Dr. Glickman's advice,

Unfortunately, yes, birth control pills can lower libido. There are at least a couple of reasons for that. First, the Pill inhibits the production of androgens by your ovaries, including testosterone. While ovaries don’t produce as much testosterone as testicles do, it’s still an important part of women’s sexual arousal. The Pill also seems to increase the production of sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds to testosterone, which further reduces the amount of it that you have available. On top of that, an article published in the 2006 Journal of Sexual Medicine found that some of these changes may last for quite a while after you stop taking the Pill. Some women report that the NuvaRing has similar effects, although others don’t have any change in their libidos and others actually have an increase in sex drive.

15 percent is a bit higher than many estimates for condom failure rates, but part of why it’s hard to pin down more precisely is that many of the reasons for condoms not working is user error. Here are some tips on reducing the odds of that happening. And since each brand of condom is a bit different, this page has lots of advice for finding the right one for you.

Even though condoms aren’t 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, they go a long way towards lowering your risk for sexually transmitted infections. But if your focus is on contraception rather than STI prevention, there are some other options. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a lot more effective and safer than is popularly believed. They are currently available with or without hormones, although it’s worth noting that the level of hormones that end up in your system is a lot lower than what you get from the Pill and the non-hormonal IUDs can cause heavier menstrual bleeding or cramps.

Unfortunately, most of the more effective forms of contraception either include some form of hormones or are irreversible. The only other way to avoid pregnancy is to keep sperm from coming into contact with the ovum. Obviously, condoms do that, but if you want other options, you might want to check out cervical caps which have about a 10 percent failure rate if you’ve never given birth vaginally and a 25 percent failure rate if you have. (You can reduce that with a spermicide.) You could also check out the vaginal contraceptive film, a strip of spermicide that you insert into the vagina where it melts and provides up to three hours of protection. It also turns out that withdrawal is more effective than was previously thought, with an 18 percent pregnancy rate. Since these other approaches are clearly less effective than implants, the Pill or other hormonal methods, a lot of people use more than one. Condoms plus cervical caps or condoms plus withdrawal improves your odds a lot.

I’d really like to see some other forms of birth control that don’t mess with women’s hormones; so many women report having all sorts of side effects. There are some gel products being developed that will (hopefully) be effective as both contraception and STI preventatives and at least some of them are working their way through clinical trials. So eventually, there will be something better for you but in the meantime, I hope this helps.

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snarkypants snarkypants 6 years
i have also asked multiple times for an IUD, and nobody will give it to me because i am single and have never had kids. it's getting to the point where i'm thinking of going abroad to get one! i've been on seven different types of the pill, all with horrible side effects. it's just ridiculous.
secrethoughts secrethoughts 6 years
Alot of people don't know about it, but the Today Sponge is back on the market. It's safe, non-hormonal, available over-the-counter (not all stores have it, but I know it's at drugstore.com), and you can put it in ahead. The only drawbacks are that it's a little bit pricey, and it doesn't really offer any protection from STIs.
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
I had the same issue with birth control pills, sadly I've been off for over a year and my drive still isn't all the way back! LoEstrin24 was the pill that did it (took it in 2007 for 4 months), I read online that many people had this issue with that pill. I even recently had my testosterone level checked and it came back normal, I don't get why I still have problems. It has nothing to do with the relationship, I can assure you that. :( I can't use condoms either, I've tried many different ones and I'm allergic or something. My guy is in the military, our form of birth control is abstinence. :(:(
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
I had the same issue with birth control pills, sadly I've been off for over a year and my drive still isn't all the way back! LoEstrin24 was the pill that did it (took it in 2007 for 4 months), I read online that many people had this issue with that pill. I even recently had my testosterone level checked and it came back normal, I don't get why I still have problems. It has nothing to do with the relationship, I can assure you that. :(I can't use condoms either, I've tried many different ones and I'm allergic or something. My guy is in the military, our form of birth control is abstinence. :(:(
elizabethsosewn elizabethsosewn 6 years
you know at 20 years old, and not with child (or ever having been) my doctor was more than willing to see about IUDs, after reading about them on HERE, i asked my doctor about what their rules were for it, and thank god I live in California, because they were not needing me to be married, had a child already, or anything.
divinedebris divinedebris 6 years
I've been there, living with a complete lack of a sex drive because of my birth control. I was on the shot, because it was easy and didn't have to think about it, then low dose pills, regular pills, and the Nuva Ring then I really couldn't take it any more. I had no sex drive, I didn't really even want to be touched and it puts a strain on my marriage because it's hard to keep turning him down. We went back to using condoms at the beginning of the year, I got off birth control, I still have a low to non-existent sex drive. Some day, I hope I'll be "normal" again. I hate birth control and I hate how it makes me feel, I'm left feeling very hollow. I don't feel "normal" because I don't want to have sex, the whole thing is very uncomfortable for me. Oh, IUDs are out of the questions, I am highly allergic to metal and hormones are no go.
Hiding55 Hiding55 6 years
I've been on the pill for 6 years and at this point I've gotten so used to the lack of sex drive that it's just become normal. I used to have irregular periods and with the pill I now get my period on the same day every month. I stopped taking it last summer when I broke up with my ex and I didn't get my period for 3 months and when I did finally get it the cramps were excruciating. I went back on the pill as fast as I could. Forget about the fact that it keeps you from getting pregnant it just makes my life easier, saner, and less painful. It's an even trade for me. Condoms suck and having to worry about spermacides and whatnot is equally annoying. I'm in a long term relationship and I like my sex to be easy and with little to no preparations. I'm that lazy. :p
cko444 cko444 6 years
I note that it is an invasive procedure - you will feel yucky for an hour or two afterwards. And you will have spotting, etc. for the first few months. I've found that my periods, while far lighter, became less regular for a few months. (With the caveat that I also increased my running regimen during this time which may have also impacted things.) Now I'm 11 months out and it's been like clockwork for at least the last 6 months or so. SOOO nice to know I don't have to deal with BC until 2013! We might all be in jetpacks by then! :)Good luck!
cko444 cko444 6 years
I note that it is an invasive procedure - you will feel yucky for an hour or two afterwards. And you will have spotting, etc. for the first few months. I've found that my periods, while far lighter, became less regular for a few months. (With the caveat that I also increased my running regimen during this time which may have also impacted things.) Now I'm 11 months out and it's been like clockwork for at least the last 6 months or so. SOOO nice to know I don't have to deal with BC until 2013! We might all be in jetpacks by then! :) Good luck!
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
it is CKO! you can bet the day I get back from my honeymoon I'll be up in the stirrups ;)
cko444 cko444 6 years
PS - No issues with sex drive either. :)
cko444 cko444 6 years
Mamasitamali - WOW! That's completely archaic and completely opposite of my ob/gyn. I too had problems with the Pill (long story but I have hereditary issues w/elevated liver enzymes and it basically gave me jaundice) and went for an IUD. My ob/gyn gave me info on both the copper and Mirena (hormonal) IUDs and let me decide. I'm in the same position as you (monagamous LTR, no STDs or pregnancies), if about 5 yrs older. My Mirena was the best choice i could have made. The hormones do not affect my liver and it's effective. I also asked my doc about the effects should I want to have kids later on - he said that the idea that it takes a long time to be fertile after removal was a complete myth, and that it was a shame about the continuing misconception that IUDs are only for married moms.That IS bull! What could be the possible rationale? If they're concerned about you getting complacent and not using condoms (on the off chance that your long-term boyfriend does have an STD that you're not aware of), well, that could happen with the pill too. Sorry for long post - it's just frustrating to me that IUDs are still foreclosed to so many young women who might be appropriate candidates. You should be able to make an informed choice.
cko444 cko444 6 years
Mamasitamali - WOW! That's completely archaic and completely opposite of my ob/gyn. I too had problems with the Pill (long story but I have hereditary issues w/elevated liver enzymes and it basically gave me jaundice) and went for an IUD. My ob/gyn gave me info on both the copper and Mirena (hormonal) IUDs and let me decide. I'm in the same position as you (monagamous LTR, no STDs or pregnancies), if about 5 yrs older. My Mirena was the best choice i could have made. The hormones do not affect my liver and it's effective. I also asked my doc about the effects should I want to have kids later on - he said that the idea that it takes a long time to be fertile after removal was a complete myth, and that it was a shame about the continuing misconception that IUDs are only for married moms. That IS bull! What could be the possible rationale? If they're concerned about you getting complacent and not using condoms (on the off chance that your long-term boyfriend does have an STD that you're not aware of), well, that could happen with the pill too. Sorry for long post - it's just frustrating to me that IUDs are still foreclosed to so many young women who might be appropriate candidates. You should be able to make an informed choice.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
I was put on a low-dose BC and it made me lose all sex drive. I experimented with trying a few different low-dose BC over a period of about 2 years and after having no luck with them, I finally went back to the full dose BC I had been on because that at least didn't kill my sex drive. I originally went off of it because I suspected it was partly responsible for migraines but I've learned how to prevent them by avoiding my triggers and I'm doing just fine now.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
I have asked several doctors now for IUDs, and they say that I am not eligible for one. I'm 24, am in a long term relationship with no former pregnancies or STDs, but because I am not married, I'm not a candidate. its bull.
Chrstne Chrstne 6 years
I'd say condoms combined with a VCF or spermicide is a good idea. If I was not on the pill, this is what I would do as well. For me, I had to choose the lesser of two evils, and it seemed more convenient to go with the pill. It screwed me up for a couple of months, over about 2 years in consistently with one pill, I have found a good balance. I do keep spermicide around, just in case. For the week that I am on the placebo pills -- I am paranoid.
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