Brain and Body

Contrary to Popular Belief, the Pill Won’t Kill Sexual Desire

December 15, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

sexual desire
Photo credit: sasint/Pixabay

New research busts the myth that birth control pills reduce sexual desire, suggesting that other factors like age and relationship length have more of an effect.

Scientists from the University of Kentucky have busted the popular myth that the pill kills sexual desire. Publishing their new research in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the study looked at the impact of three different contraceptive types — oral hormonal contraceptive, other hormonal contraceptive, and non-hormonal contraceptive.

The researchers argue that the scientific evidence behind the belief that oral birth control pills reduce sexual desire is mixed. Some studies support the claim, while others refute it, so the team decided to look at some areas that previous studies may have overlooked.

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"We wanted to understand the link between desire and contraceptive choice, especially in the context of longer-term relationships," study author Dr. Kristen Mark said in a press release. "Most research doesn't focus on partners or people in long-term relationships but many contraceptive users are in long-term monogamous relationships, so this is an important group to study."

Using a tool called the Sexual Desire Inventory, the researchers assessed over 900 people on their sexual desire when alone, and when with a partner.

The researchers found that different types of birth control affected women in different ways. For example, women on the pill showed higher sexual desire with a partner, while those on non-hormonal contraceptives reported higher sexual desire when alone.

Next, the team adjusted their findings to account for potential outside influences like age and relationship length. Amazingly, this cancelled out the statistical significance of the prior findings, suggesting that these other factors have a bigger impact on desire than contraceptive type.

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"The message that hormonal pills decrease desire is really prevalent,” says Dr. Mark. “Our findings are clear: the pill doesn't kill desire. This research helps to bust those myths and hopefully eventually get rid of this common cultural script in our society."

Dr. Mark plans to continue studying how and why sexual desire changes in relationships, specifically looking at relationships in which one of the partners has lower or higher sexual desire than the other.
"By continuing to unravel the mysteries behind the inaccurate anecdotes out there, I hope we can help women understand - and address - changes in their sexual desire,” she concludes.

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