It may seem more convenient than other methods of birth control, but there are plenty of inconvenient truths about the pill. And one of them—lowered libido—is especially ironic considering oral contraceptives are supposed to free you to truly indulge your desire for sex without fear of an unwanted pregnancy.
In conventional medicine, waning or absent sex drive is considered a classic symptom of menopause. Doctors often dismiss the same complaint from younger women as something driven by external factors: relationship issues, work stress, exhaustion from caring for young children, etc.
But young women constantly come to me reporting loss of libido, despite relationships they consider healthy. They also sometimes suffer from fatigue, depression, weight gain, and other symptoms strangely like those of menopause. One of the first things I ask these patients is if they are on the pill. The answer is almost invariably yes. And when we test their hormone levels, their estrogen is often just as low as that of their much older menopausal counterparts.
The pill-menopause connection you should know about.
I explain to my patients that, in a way, the pill puts you in pseudo "menopause" because it interrupts and suppresses your own natural production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, which are integral to your sex drive. These hormones are your body’s "software," and altering their function can set off a chain of negative consequences.
I didn’t always feel this way about the pill. As a young woman, I took it myself, and as a young doctor, I prescribed it to my patients. But I didn’t have the knowledge I do now, based on seeing the same symptoms and shockingly low hormone (menopausal) levels in young patients over and over again. Fortunately, this shut down of hormone production is reversible. I counsel all my patients to come off the pill if they are on it and choose nonhormonal methods of contraception instead.
This is such an important topic that I decided to tackle it in my new book Radiant Again & Forever. One of the chapters chronicles the journeys of patients of mine who successfully switched from the pill to nonhormonal birth control and regained their sex drive, along with a host of other health dividends. You may see yourself in these very real stories, and I wish you the same happy endings.
What you can do to restore your sex drive.
Remember, taking the pill suppresses your natural hormone production and can lead to a number of physical symptoms, including loss of sexual desire. So what do you do?
1. Get off the pill.
There are so many other methods of birth control, including the Paragard (nonhormonal IUD), the diaphragm, and condoms. Work with your doctor to find the right one for you.
2. Consider bioidentical hormones.
If you are coming off the pill, ask your doctor about bioidentical hormones to help you with the transition.
3. Be patient.
It might take a while for you to feel like your radiant self again. Many women want a specific time frame, but it's different for everyone, so listen to your body and be kind to yourself as you go through the transition.
4. Practice self-care.
When you're coming off the pill, eat a healthy, whole foods diet. This will help your body restore balance. It's also important to get plenty of sleep, which means seven to nine hours each night depending on your specific needs.
Looking for an alternative to the pill? Here's what you need to know about IUDs.