Does the pill kill your sex drive?

O, The Oprah Magazine, January 2006

THE FINDINGS: In research being published this month in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 124 premenopausal women who attended a sexual dysfunction clinic were separated into three groups: birth-control-pill users, former users, and those who had never taken the pill. Blood samples showed that current users had high levels of a protein called SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), which pulls circulating testosterone out of action and dampens libido and overall sexual function. Levels declined when women went off the pill but were still elevated six months later. "This is surprising," says study author Irwin Goldstein, MD, editor of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "The effect of oral contraceptives on SHBG levels should have subsided at that point." Now scientists question whether extended use of the pill might have long-lasting--or permanent--effects on sexual enjoyment.

THE TAKEAWAY: Reduced sex drive is a known side effect of the pill. Practitioners had previously assumed, however, that a woman's libido bounced back after she stopped taking contraceptives. Laura Berman, PhD, director of the Berman Center in Chicago, advises patients struggling with low sex drive to consider other methods of birth control.