photo courtesy of health.com
Hormonal birth control comes in two varieties: 1) the minipill, which is progestin only, and 2) combination pills, which contain estrogen and progestin. These synthetic hormones mix with your body’s natural hormones and act to fool your body into thinking it is pregnant. If your body believes it is pregnant, it will not release an egg each month, and thus there is no egg to be fertilized to create an actual pregnancy. The issue here is that the result of chemically altering your body’s natural hormones is a decrease in sexual urges and responses, putting a damper on your ability to orgasm.
In a 2011 study conducted at Indiana University, research scientists at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion examined the sex lives of 1,101 women, half of which were using hormonal forms of birth control (patch, shot, ring, or pill) and half of which used condoms, the rhythm method, or other natural forms of birth control. They discovered that while both groups had the same level of intimacy, women using hormonal birth control reported lower levels of arousal, lubrication, frequency of sex, and number of orgasms.
Hormonal forms of birth control increase the sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in a woman’s body to four times its normal levels. When SHGB increases, free testosterone, which helps power your sex drive, decreases. Unfortunately, stopping the use of hormonal birth control does not fix this issue immediately. In fact, studies have shown that even six months after stopping, SHBG levels remain at twice the normal levels. For some women, the levels remain twice as high as normal for one year or more. If you are concerned that your sex life is being impacted by your use of hormonal birth control, it is important to speak to your doctor immediately.
In previous articles, we have discussed in-depth the negative impact synthetic hormones in the birth control pill, patch, and ring can have on a woman’s body. However, a recent study has produced a new and shocking side effect of hormonal birth control use.
In the study, researcher Salvatore Caruso, a professor in the Department of Gynecological Science at the Ospedale S. Bambino in Italy, tested the sense of smell of 60 women who were not taking the birth control pill at a variety of points in their menstrual cycles. He found that the women’s sense of smell was most sensitive at the exact time they were most fertile, which was when they were ovulating. The same women were then put on birth control pills for three months and retested. Caruso discovered that the increased sense of smell previously seen during ovulation was gone.
While it is already unpleasant to know that hormonal birth control can change a natural process inherent to our enjoyment of life, the impact extends far greater than the basic results when you consider the scientific tie between smell and libido. The areas of the brain that control ovaries and sense of smell are in close proximity to each other in the brain. Researchers have found that some women born without a sense of smell actually experience no activity at all in their ovaries.
Furthermore, science has proven that human beings choose their partners based on pheromones. While you might not know you are drawn to someone due to their smell, your nose is picking up receptors that tell you if the person you are with will make a good mate for conceiving, which is typically someone genetically dissimilar to yourself. Craig Roberts, a lecturer of Psychology at the University of Newcastle, conducted a study of odor preferences across 100 women, and found those who were taking hormonal birth control were actually drawn to genetically similar mates instead. The devastating results of this are infertility issues and a feeling of being less attracted to your mate when you stop taking the pill. Therefore, it seems that if you have hopes of conceiving someday, hormonal birth control is not the optimal choice for you today.
Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117158, http://www.viewzone.com/estrogen.html