Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are a commonly used hormonal method for preventing unplanned pregnancy. Women may use them for other reasons, too. These medications can help women manage severe premenstrual syndrome, painful cramps, acne, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
However, women who use oral contraceptives may experience sexual side effects.
The most commonly reported sexual side effects for women on birth control pills are diminished sex drive and painful intercourse (dyspareunia), often linked to vaginal dryness.
Some scientists think declines in libido might be caused by the hormonal changes brought on by oral contraceptives. Hormones called androgens are important for sexual desire. Oral contraceptives can decrease the amount of androgens in the body.
Hormonal changes might also affect the physiology of the vulva and vagina, and can lead to painful intercourse.
If you think oral contraceptives are causing sexual issues for you, see your healthcare provider for a medical exam. Problems like low libido can have a variety of causes, such as fatigue, stress, and relationship conflict. A thorough medical checkup will give you and your provider a clearer picture.
If oral contraceptives are the cause, your provider might adjust your medication dose or change the drug you take. Newer birth control pill formulations with fewer reported sexual side effects are available. You might also consider other hormonal birth control options, like a vaginal ring or an intrauterine device (IUD)
Switching to a non-hormonal form of birth control — such as male or female condoms, a diaphragm, non-hormonal IUD, or a cervical cap – may also help.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(Page last reviewed: August 13, 2020)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Huang, Minger, MD, et al.
“Is There an Association Between Contraception and Sexual Dysfunction in Women? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Based on Female Sexual Function Index”
(Full-text. Published: July 18, 2020)
Sexual Medicine Reviews
Lee, Jean-Jasmin M.L., MBBS, et al.
“Oral Contraception and Female Sexual Dysfunction in Reproductive Women”
(Full-text. Published: June 30, 2016)
“Nonhormonal Birth Control”
(Reviewed: August 4, 2020)
“Other Reasons to Use Birth Control”
(Reviewed: June 8, 2020)