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Taking the pill won't curb sex drive says a new study

Science on the issue is still mixed.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

A NEW STUDY throws doubt on the belief that use of contraceptives may impact sexual desire.

The study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, took in research from the University of Kentucky and Indiana University in the US.

The researchers say the evidence explaining what affects women’s sexual desire is mixed and more research is needed.

A popular anecdote is that using contraceptives – particularly oral hormone contraceptives, the pill – decreases desire. But so far, scientific evidence has been mixed, with some studies supporting the claim and others suggesting the opposite

In their paper, Dr. Kristen Mark and her colleagues describe two studies they carried out to explore the impact of using different contraceptives on the sexual desire of women and men in relationships.

“We wanted to understand the link between desire and contraceptive choice, especially in the context of longer-term relationships,” said Dr. Mark.

Most research doesn’t focus on partners or people in long-term relationships but many contraceptive users are in long-term monogamous relationships, so this is an important group to study.

They looked at the impact of three different contraceptive types — oral hormonal contraceptive, other hormonal contraceptive and non-hormonal contraceptive — on the desire of couples in heterosexual relationships of varying lengths. They measured solitary and dyadic sexual desire — that is, libido alone or with a partner — of more than 900 people using a tool called the Sexual Desire Inventory.

The findings revealed significant differences in the way contraceptives affected the desire of women alone and in their relationships: women on non-hormonal contraceptives reported higher desire on their own and women on oral contraceptives reported higher desire with their partner.

However, when the researchers adjusted the results to take into account relationship length and age, the differences were no longer significant, suggesting that it’s the context rather than the contraceptive type that has the biggest impact on desire.

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