If you’re a woman whose sexual relationship with your husband or male partner has cooled over the years, your contraceptive choice may be to blame. It’s not necessarily which hormonal contraceptive you’ve chosen (if any) that may be the culprit, but whether you’ve made changes in your birth control method. This finding was recently revealed in an international study led by researchers at Stirling University in Scotland, along with other universities in the UK and Czechoslovakia.
According to the study, either starting or stopping birth control pills during your relationship could have a negative effect on your sexual satisfaction. In other words, consistency was shown to be conducive to satisfaction in long-term heterosexual relationships for women. The study found no negative effects from hormonal contraception changes on non-sexual relationship aspects for women and no negative effects, sexual or non-sexual, for men.
Can the pill improve my sex life in my long-term relationship?
This research points out just how complicated this question is. The Stirling research certainly supports prior findings that hormonal birth control can slightly change a woman’s preferences in sexual partner, possibly altering her ideals for physical attractiveness. What’s new here is that, when searching for the causes of decreased sexual satisfaction for women in continuing relationships, what may matter most is not current use, but whether contraceptive use has changed.
Put another way, it’s not enough to simply consider what you’re doing today and tomorrow, but what your history of hormonal contraception is. Other variables, of course, may also come into play. Imagine, for instance, that you start the pill and it alleviates anxiety about possibly becoming pregnant or increases your sensation if you give up condom use. These factors might improve your satisfaction and override a possible change in preference. The study authors indicate that they controlled for differences in relationship length, age of individuals, having children and income among the couples studied. Even if they were able to perfectly control for those factors, there are may other differences among long-term relationships. It may be impossible to generalize the study results to your own situation.
If I’m in a long-term relationship, will going off (or on) the pill ruin it?
Since a long-term relationship is built on many factors and not only on sexual attraction, “ruin” might be strong word. There is some evidence from this study that you, as a woman, may experience changes in your level of sexual satisfaction. However, this study covered 365 couples and isn’t definitive enough to apply to every woman or every relationship. The study summary (or abstract) states that it is not providing absolutes but “support for the congruency hypothesis” that hormonal contraceptive changes affect women’s preferences.
If you feel that returning to your former birth control habit will help your relationship—and pose no threat to your health—you might consider trying this for a while. However, any medical decisions such as starting or stopping hormonal birth control should be discussed with your personal health care provider.