Hormone-based birth control, which includes both pills and IUDs, are one of the most common ways people prevent pregnancy. Many women take birth control pills for a significant portion of their lives since it’s often a default form of contraception. Others are prescribed testosterone to increase their sexual desire. But hormonal treatments aren’t free from side effects, and they can have substantial impact on women’s lives.
Hormones: What They Do
Hormones affect both your mood and your behavior, and many birth control pills contain synthetic hormones to prevent you from ovulating. Progesterone, for instance, affects the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that triggers the ovaries to produce eggs.
Some women are more sensitive to fluctuating hormones than others, so the extent to which birth control affects you may not be the same as for your friends. But progesterone’s effects are even more far-reaching, and they can make you bloated, irritable, and tired. Some birth control pills also contain estrogen, which can help temper the effects of progesterone.
Hormones are released into the bloodstream. So, birth control pills don’t simply target your ovaries and leave the rest of your body untouched. Even if you use an IUD with “localized” hormones, they still get into the bloodstream, and they will influence your other organs as well. This is important to understand, as the brain is very sensitive to these changes, too.
The way hormones affect your behavior is far-reaching. Estrogen, for example, can make sex feel better—like the pleasure is enhanced. Having more progesterone, on the other hand, can suppress your sex drive while you’re on hormones. They can even affect your productivity.
If you’re concerned about how birth control is affecting your moods, start a journal to track them throughout the month. It’s a helpful way to gather information about how your brain reacts to the ebb and flow of hormones within your body. Even if you’re not on birth control, journaling can help you learn about your body in a similar way since hormones fluctuate all the time. This can be beneficial to your mental health as well, and you’ll have written proof that bad moods and tough times are temporary.
The ability to have sex without getting pregnant is a priority for many women of reproductive age. So, many women will need to take birth control regardless of the accompanying symptoms. But knowing the side effects of birth control is essential for women to be able to choose the best contraception method for them. If you’re having troubling symptoms, mention them to your doctor. You can always try a new prescription, a lower dose of hormones, or a different method of contraception.
Testosterone and Desire
Some people who struggle with low desire are prescribed testosterone to boost their sex drive. However, this works for some people but not others. If it doesn’t work, it can feel frustrating or like their body is in some way broken. When you play with your hormones, the effects will extend beyond your sex life.
If you’d like more advice on managing your sexual health while maintaining a great sex life, contact me for a free consultation.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to download the 101 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot checklist.