Lexington, KY—New research can help pharmacists reassure oral contraceptive users that the pill itself doesn’t lower sexual desire, despite the common misbelief.

A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that, instead, factors affecting sexual desire in women are mixed and will require more research.

For the research, a study team from the University of Kentucky and Indiana University conducted two studies to explore the effect of different contraceptives on 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,” explained Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH, assistant professor and director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at University of Kentucky and affiliate faculty at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. “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.”

The study, with 900 participants, looked at three different contraceptive types—oral hormonal contraceptive, other hormonal contraceptive, and nonhormonal contraceptive—and how they affected the desire of couples in heterosexual relationships of varying lengths.

Results indicate that women on nonhormonal contraceptives reported a higher desire for sex on their own and women on oral contraceptives reported higher desire with their partners. When the researchers adjusted the results to take into account relationship length and age, however, those differences were no longer significant, suggesting that the context rather than the contraceptive type has the greatest effect on desire.

“Sometimes women are looking for something to explain changes in their sexual desire, which is not fixed throughout her life,” Mark pointed out. “The message that hormonal pills decrease desire is really prevalent. In my undergrad classes my students often say they hear the pill makes you not want sex, “so what’s the point?” Our findings are clear: the pill doesn’t kill desire. This research helps to bust those myths and hopefully eventually get rid of this common cultural script in our society.”

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