The NHS claims that “some women have reported a decreased sex drive” while using some forms of oral contraceptive.
Citing it as a possible side effect, they insist that the change in libido is temporary. However the reassurance does little to contradict the widely-held belief that oral contraceptives can decrease your libido.
By reviewing previous research on the subject, and conducting two studies of her own, researcher Dr Kristen Mark and her team aimed to finally put the ‘myth’ to bed.
Using the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI), they focused on two types of sexual desire: solitary (the desire to engage in sexual activity by yourself and dyadic (wishing to engage in sexual activity with another).
The SDI measures sexual desire in terms of perception and reasoning, rather than through a measure of behaviour. For the sake of the study, ‘contraception’ was put into three groups: oral hormonal, other hormonal, and non-hormonal.
The first study investigated how contraceptive use affected heterosexual partners in relationships of different lengths, while the second focused on the impact contraceptive use had on long-term relationships.
The results are clear
First and foremost, sexual desire was not dampened by the use of any of the three types of contraception.
The study confirmed that women who used non-hormonal contraceptives had a higher solitary libido than those on hormonal contraceptives. Women using hormonal contraceptives however, reported higher levels of dyadic sexual desire.
Sexual desire was, in fact, predicated by the "length and age" of the relationship.
Sometimes women are looking for something to explain changes in their sexual desire, which is not fixed throughout their life. The message that hormonal pills decrease desire is really prevalent. In my undergrad classes my students often say they hear the pill makes you not want sex, 'so what's the point?' Our findings are clear: the pill does not kill desire. This research helps to bust those myths and hopefully eventually get rid of this common cultural script in our society.