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Hormonal Contraceptives and Sexual Desire

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The last article that I published on EmpowHer focused on the emotional effects of estrogen production within the body. The theme of that article can be reduced to the statement that a woman’s monthly cycle causes changes in her body and mind that are not always understood or recognized.

Our reproductive system is an amazing thing. Like many other mysterious processes that occur on this Earth, it seems to weave in and out of our realm of understanding. We most certainly know that we have a period and that it occurs about once a month. We also know that we’re sort of angry the days before we start menstruating, and we ovulate sometime after that. But for most women, anything beyond that basic knowledge is needlessly superfluous to greater matters of being.

The truth is that there is a lot to be gained from extended study of our reproductive cycles. Hormonal contraceptives often exclude women from knowledge of their bodies, as the constant stream of estrogen and/or progestin necessarily overpowers their natural production. But for those who endeavor to use barrier methods, natural family planning, or abstinence in order to avoid pregnancy, a whole world of physiological states are in the wings just waiting to be rediscovered.

Personally, I chose to discontinue my use of birth control pills a few months ago. After that, I found that extended use of hormonal contraceptives had blocked out the majority of emotions and desires associated with natural monthly cycles. I think it’s important to discuss these differences in order to present an accurate view of female sexuality.

Here are a few of the major changes I noticed after going off birth control pills:

1) My sex drive during fertile periods (the days before and during ovulation) has been through the roof. It turns out that high levels of estrogen incessantly prod you to procreate, regardless of who happens to be around you at the time. Who knew?

2) When I am fertile, I’m very fixated on having children. I'm planning names, cribs, and clothing. But when I am not, I couldn’t care less.

3) I have more energy when I’m fertile, whereas my infertile periods often cause me to isolate myself and shy away from any extra projects that may come my way.

4) I feel more like a woman. My pills seemed (to me) to be a barrier for the “true” female experience, and before I went au naturale, I didn’t know what women were talking about in regards to moodiness, high/low libido, the desire to have children, and the attractiveness of chocolate.

For many women, especially those who are not in a committed relationship, hormonal contraceptives are extremely efficacious and liberating. They allow us to go about our lives without worrying about pregnancy, which is a major change to our body and lifestyle.

But for those who are not currently on birth control, identifying the experiences involved in a healthy menstrual cycle can be a great way to connect with your body in a way you never have before.


Shaina Gaul is a feminist and freelance writer living in Iowa. View more of her writing at http://www.couchSpud.net.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Thanks for the info, Anonymous.

December 22, 2009 - 6:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is ludicrous. There is nothing bad or unhealthy about leveling off estrogen/progestin production in the body. Overdosing would be bad, taking it without a physical and doctor's advice would be bad, but the birth control pill is a great boon to women everywhere, allowing us to take control of our own cycles and our own reproductive health without depending on men to provide it.

Most ob/gyn physicians have agreed that no more than four menstrual periods per year are anywhere near necessary to maintain health in the female reproductive system. Monthly periods only occur in the industrialized, first-world nations, and even there it is only very recent in human history due to a former culture of constant pregnancy and malnutrition. It's not a level-one crucial function, it's an inconvenience of modern life, invented by cushy living and the choice to not have babies.

I've known women whose PMS symptoms cripple them for days out of every month whose only relief had been the leveling effect of the birth control pill. In their case, "feeling like a woman" would mean taking off from work to vomit from the strength of their cramps. Do you really think that the "natural" way is the best for them? Are they less womanly for not wanting to suffer these things?

As a user of an estrogen-progestin pill, I feel no less "connected to my body" than I did beforehand. However I now feel more consistently clear skin, milder cramps, no headaches, lowered food cravings, almost no mood swings at all, and I never have to break out fat pants just because it's that time of the month. Perhaps I am too small of a sample, but I certainly don't feel as though I am any less of a woman than I was before.

Incidentally, I am also insulted by the idea that my reproductive system "weaves in and out of the realm of understanding." I don't know about you, but with even a moderate amount of education, I think it's pretty easy to understand nearly everything that goes on in the female reproductive system. This the year 2009, and it is simply irresponsible as a woman to know only that "we have a period once a month" and leave it at that. It's no more mystical than digestion or muscle contraction, it's just another set of functions in human physiology, and with a few keywords typed into a search engine, one can soon be perfectly clear on it right down to the cellular level. Google is your friend!

December 1, 2009 - 2:35pm

I agree with you. I had a similar experience and feel better OFF the pill. Yes, I have those emotional ups and downs. But, at least I'm feeling something and experiencing my cycle the way it's supposed to be.

November 27, 2009 - 7:24am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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