Finding the right birth control can be tricky for a lot of people, and the number of different birth control pills, IUDs, patches, and injections alone can be dizzying. It also doesn’t help matters that some women have a really tough time on birth control because of psychological and/or physical side effects. But emerging research is starting to pin down the different things women need from their birth control and what makes them likely to stick with their method.
Jenny Higgins, associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently wrote an article explaining that the effect birth control has on women’s sex drive is a big factor in determining whether or not women will stick with their birth control method.
In a study Higgins conducted, women at four different clinics were asked to rate what is most important to them about birth control. Overall, women ranked factors related to libido and sexual satisfaction just as highly as the efficacy of their contraceptive method. If whether or not a birth control method works is just as important as whether or not it has a negative impact on sex drive, it’s vital that women have birth control that doesn’t mess with their sexuality.
Higgins also writes that women are more likely to enjoy their sex life if they are confident that their birth control method is adequately preventing pregnancy. Further studies have shown that IUDs, the most effective form of birth control, increase women’s sexual well-being. According to Higgins, 40 percent of women who use IUDs say that their sexual well-being improved their sex lives. Only 15 percent of women said that their sex life was worsened in some way by IUDs.
There’s also research that demonstrates women are more likely to stick with their birth control method if it doesn’t mess with their libido or sexual satisfaction. Among women who said their birth control improved their sexual well-being, 100 percent were still using the same method a year later. 100 percent!
The link between overall satisfaction with birth control and a positive or neutral impact on sexuality is really strong, according to Higgins. In a study that examined women’s birth control satisfaction, which Higgins sites in her study, among those who were strongly satisfied with their birth control, 48 percent said it had a positive impact on their sexuality, and 40 percent said their birth control didn’t change their sexuality at all. That means 88 percent of women who really love their birth control either had their sexuality improved or unimpeded by their method.
By contrast, among women who were strongly dissatisfied with their birth control, none had seen their sex life improve because of their birth control.
Higgins writes that these findings can really help healthcare providers guide women toward the birth control that’s right for them. Knowing everything that women find important about birth control and all the reasons they use birth control will be very useful for making sure women are prescribed a birth control method they’ll stick with.
Because separate recent research demonstrated many women have a decreased sense of well-being while taking hormonal birth control, being able to pinpoint the specific ways that women’s lives are worsened because of birth control, such as lessened libido, can help women research and understand birth control choices better. While some people may think of libido and sex life as tangential to overall happiness, studies show that it can be a really big deal.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found a correlation between women’s sexual function and satisfaction and body image. Women who were not satisfied with their sexual function and sex life as a whole tended to have a more negative body image compared to women who were happy with their sex lives. Another study from 2009 also found that women who are sexually satisfied are happier across all ages.
It’s clear that women’s libidos and sexual satisfaction are important in many ways, so it’s no wonder women care so much about how their birth control changes these factors. Now that there’s researching coming out that helps shed light on what’s going on with women who take birth control, hopefully, it will be easier to find just the right method for individual women.
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