Women’s Sexual Dysfunction, are Hormonal Contraceptives to Blame?

sexual-dysfunctionFemale sexual dysfunction (FSD), a disorder that keeps a women from enjoying sex over extended periods of time, includes many symptoms such as difficulty becoming aroused, lack of orgasm, painful intercourse, and lack of desire. This is a common disorder with 43% of women reporting some degree of difficulty. These problems can a negative impact on quality of life and relationships with sexual partners. Causes of FSD can be either psychological or physical.

Psychological triggers include stress, anxiety, concerns about sexual performance, relationship problems, past traumatic sexual events, and even depression. Any number of medical or physical conditions can also contribute to FSD including diabetes, heart disease, menopause, kidney disease, or liver failure.

Moreover, there are medications, such as antidepressants, which can influence sexual mood, desire, and performance. Doctors have long suspected that hormonal contraceptives play a role in sexual dysfunction. Researchers at University of Heidelberg in Germany looked for an association between FSD and hormonal contraceptive use.

More than 1000 women were surveyed by online questionnaire based on Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), a scale which measures desire, arousal problems, lubrication, orgasms, satisfaction and pain. The questionnaire also included questions about lifestyle, such as the desire to have children, pregnancy, smoking habits, level of sexual activity, and contraceptive use.

Results of the questionnaires showed that almost 90% percent had used some form of contraception in the last six months, nearly 100% percent had been sexually active within the last four weeks, and 80% had been with the same partner for the last six months.

The most common form of birth control was oral contraception, followed by condoms, and then the vaginal ring. After the researchers eliminated any women who had not been sexually active recently or who used more than one form of birth control, 1,046 participants remained in the study. Of the remaining study participants, 32% (n = 351) of the women were at high risk for FSD.

Women using hormonal contraceptives were at the highest risk for FSD and had the lowest FSFI scores. Women using nonhormonal forms of birth control, such as condoms, or no contraception had higher total desire and arousal scores than women using birth control pills, vaginal rings and other forms of hormonal birth control.

Women using non-hormonal methods of birth control had highest scores for desire and arousal. With more than 300 million users of oral contraceptives worldwide, it is important that women are well-informed of the potential side effects associated with their use.

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