J Sex Res 2014 Nov 24:1-12

Cycle-related changes in mood, sexual desire, and sexual activity in oral contraception-using and nonhormonal-contraception-using couples

Elaut E, Buysse A, De Sutter P, Gerris J, De Cuypere G and T'Sjoen G


Findings on women's sexuality across the menstrual cycle are inconsistent. One relatively consistent finding is a midcycle and premenstrual peak in sexual desire in freely cycling women. Results on the cycle-related effects on sexual behavior are less clear. Large proportions of reproductive-aged women use combined oral contraception (COC), but studies on potential cycle-related shifts in sexual desire and behavior are sparse. A prospective diary study assessed sexual desire, sexual behavior, and mood in 89 heterosexual couples. Women were using one of four contraceptive methods: (1) nonhormonal contraception, (2) low-dose COC containing 20 mcg ethinylestradiol and 75 mcg gestoden or desogestrel, (3) COC containing 35 mcg ethinylestradiol and 2 mg cyproteronacetate, and (4) COC containing 30 mcg ethinylestradiol and 3 mg drospirenone. No cycle effects of sexual desire were established in the COC group, but frequency of sexual intercourse declined in the last days of active pill taking. These results were similar in both female and male partners. Negative affect did not co-vary with sexual desire.

Comment: Hormonal contraception is often blamed for causing decreased sexual desire. This study elegantly shows that combined oral contraceptives have no effect on sexual desire. (HMV)