Your sex drive can remain low even six months after stopping oral contraceptives. Fortunately, there are ways to boost libido after the pill.
Oral Contraceptives: Deceptively Harmful
Oral contraceptive pills have become wildly popular since they were made available to the general public in 1972. Today, more than 100 million women around the world use this form of birth control. Oral contraceptives are popular for a few reasons: they have a reliability rate of over 99 percent if you take them correctly, they are convenient to use as you just need to take one pill a day and they don’t interfere with the sensations of sex like condoms can.
Birth control pills are a great solution for many women. However, they aren’t for all women, as they can cause surprisingly severe side effects. Oral contraceptives can cause bloating, dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, nausea and upset stomach. They also increase your risk of blood clots, heart attacks, high blood pressure, liver tumors, stroke and vision problems. Birth control pills will increase your risk of cardiovascular problems even more if you are a smoker.
Another major side effect of oral contraceptives is depression. Recent research done on more than one million women in Denmark found that using contraceptive pills increases the risk of developing depression by up to 34 percent, depending on the formulation. Hormonal contraceptive devices, such as the vaginal ring, can increase the risk of depression by up to 60 percent. In light of this research, women and girls would do well to reconsider their use of hormonal birth control methods.
Birth Control Pills Reduce Libido Even Six Months After Stopping
Depression is only one of the side effects of birth control pills that can majorly impair a woman’s quality of life. Another one is loss of libido. Taking birth control pills can cause a woman’s sexual desire to plummet due to the medication’s effects on hormone balance.
A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that women who take contraceptive pills have significantly higher levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This is a protein that binds to testosterone and estrogen and makes it so the body cannot use these hormones. Since testosterone and estrogen are both responsible for producing sexual desire, high SHBG levels lead to low libido.
Users of hormonal contraceptives were found to have SHBG levels four times higher than women who had never taken the pill. Even if birth control pills did not increase SHBG levels, they also suppress the overall metabolic function of the ovaries, causing them to produce lower levels of the sex hormones themselves.
Your sex drive can become non-existent while taking birth control pills. However, even after you stop taking them, your SHBG levels remain elevated for at least six months afterward. This means it can take a tediously long time to fully recover from the side effects of hormonal contraceptives.
How to Increase Libido After the Pill
You don’t have to live with low libido after the pill for six months or more. There are steps you can take to jump-start your body’s cleansing processes. Here are some of the most helpful suggestions that you can incorporate into your lifestyle:
- Eat a clean diet. Limit sugars and processed foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Nutritional support can go a long way toward optimizing your body’s self-healing abilities.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. Exercise increases testosterone levels in addition to improving circulation, which are both factors that contribute to sexual desire.
- Avoid caffeine. You may love your coffee and black tea, but this stimulant puts undue stress on your adrenal glands. If your adrenal glands are overworked, they may not produce enough testosterone and estrogen. It’s best to cut this out of your diet. Opt for caffeine-free versions of your favorite beverages instead.
- Take some supplements that are known to boost libido after the pill, such as Panax ginseng, maca root and zinc.
- Increase your intake of omega fatty acids. Studies have found that consuming more omega fatty acids can decrease your SHBG levels, leading to more bioavailable sex hormones for your body to use. You can get omega fatty acids from fish oil supplements or by eating fatty fish, such as salmon, at least twice a week.
The above steps will help you get you sex drive back faster. Until it fully returns, there are also ways you can cope with a lowered libido. For example, although planning days on your calendar to have sex with your partner may seem very unromantic, it can actually help kick things up a notch. Clear your schedule and try to have sex even if you aren’t in the mood. Chances are, once you start engaging in kissing and foreplay, sex won’t seem so unappealing after all. Having sex more frequently can actually increase your libido.