What Virgins Should Know About The PillJanuary 15th, 2012 by Olivier
Contraception performs wonders for married couples. It allows married couples to pursue career goals, solidify financial stability, and enjoy sexual intimacy, all while preventing pregnancy. However, no contraceptive is without its unique set of advantages or disadvantages. Virgins may get preoccupied with fantasies of sexual fulfillment, and be predisposed to naivety concerning birth control, engaging in little to no research even when the wedding night is on the horizon.
The possible side-effects of “the pill”, and other forms of hormonal contraception, side-effects which are sometimes downplayed by health care professionals, should be of particular interest to virgin men and women.
Sex Drive and Sexual Functioning
Previous research has been performed concerning hormonal contraception and sexual functioning, but many of those studies were performed in the 1980’s and were not only limited but also inconclusive. Finally, recent studies have confirmed what so many women and men have shared via anecdotal evidence: hormonal contraception can ruin sex lives.
An Indiana University study, released Oct. 2011, analyzed the responses of 1,101 women who completed online questionnaires. The amount of women who used hormonal forms of contraception (e.g., pill, patch, shot), and non-hormonal forms of contraception (e.g., condom, withdrawal), was split almost evenly. The women indicated similar levels of romance and intimacy, but women who used hormonal contraception reported less arousal, fewer orgasms, decreased pleasure, and less frequent sex.
Another study found that women taking hormonal contraception were at the highest risk for Female Sexual Dysfunction. This study was conducted by the University of Heidelburg in Germany and published in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers evaluated the responses of 1,046 women in an effort to address which lifestyle functions, including but not limited to contraception, contributed to FSD. The women were divided the women into 4 groups:
1. oral (hormonal) contraception (OC)
2. non-oral hormonal contraception (NOHC)
3. Non-hormonal contraception (NHC)
4. No contraception (NC)
Research found that 32.4% of the participants were at risk for FSD. Participants in the NOHC and OC groups were at the highest risks for FSD, respectively. Methods of contraception and smoking were significant factors in determining sexual function while age, prior pregnancy, desire for children, and partnership status proved insignificant. Women who were not in stable relationships had higher desire but lower orgasm scores.
A Word About Testosterone
Many might be surprised to find out that testosterone is significant in a female’s sexual health. Oral contraceptives increase the amount of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) in a woman’s system. This SHBG binds itself to sex hormones, including testosterone, and causes a drop in the amount of “unbound” testosterone in a woman’s body; lower levels of unbound testosterone can lead to a variety of sexual problems for women.
For a considerable period of time, it was thought the negative sexual side-effects of the pill were temporary and would be reversed relatively quickly after use. However, research indicates that these effects may be long lasting, and there is reason to suspect that these harmful side-effects may be permanent.
Researchers conducted a study comparing SHBG levels between women who were on oral contraception, off oral contraception, and had never used oral contraception. The study examined 124 premenopausal women with sexual health complaints for more than 6 months. The research article, entitled “Impact of Oral Contraceptives on Sex Hormone Binding Globulin and Androgen Levels: A Retrospective Study in Women with Sexual Dysfunction”, was published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The results showed that SHBG levels in “Oral Contraceptive Continued-Users” (women who were currently on the pill) were 4x higher than “Never-Users of Oral Contraceptives”. Regarding women who stopped using the pill, there was a decrease in SHBG after discontinuation but SHBG levels in these women were still higher in comparison to “Never-Users of Oral Contraceptives”. This lead to speculation that prolonged usage of oral contraception leads to genetic alterations which fuel SHBG production.
There is also evidence which suggests that oral contraception alters men’s and women’s choices in a mate. Studies have shown that partner preferences for both men and women are dependent on hormonal variations over a woman’s menstrual cycle. Because the pill interferes with these hormonal variations, both men and women’s selection decisions may be altered. A paper published in the Oct. 2009 issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution reviews numerous studies concerning this issue of sexual attraction.
Dr. Alverne and Dr. Virpi Lumma were the reviewers of these studies. They took particular interest in the fact that women who took the pill did not exhibit the normal attraction to genetically dissimilar patterns. The doctors also speculated that women who were on the pill reduced their attractiveness to men and were at a disadvantage when competing with normally cycling women.
How About Non-Oral Hormonal Contraception?
Though the Indiana and FSD studies encompassed all forms of hormonal contraception, you may have noticed that the “Sexual Attraction” and “Permanent?” sections focused solely on oral hormonal contraception. This is primarily due to the limited and emerging nature of this research. Much more research needs to be done. However, anecdotal evidence (e.g., Google searches) will reveal that women using non-oral forms of hormonal contraception also suffer sexual side-effects as well.
Quotes Regarding The Various Studies
Nicole Smith, project coordinator of Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion:
A great effort has been made to make condoms more pleasurable for men. But you don’t hear about this same effort going toward reducing the negative impact of contraception on women’s sexual functioning. It’s just not part of the discussion.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, regarding the FSD study:
There are hundreds of millions of women, in particular young women at the beginning of their sexual lives, who regularly use hormonal contraception for many years. The irony is that these women are provided a medication that enables freedom from reproductive worries but these same women are not provided information that there are significant adverse sexual effects that may ensue.
Dr. Harald Seeger, researcher on the FSD study:
We would also urge some caution in interpretation of our present results and would like to highlight that this type of study cannot demonstrate causality but rather association and there might exist a multitude of factors that have an impact on female sexual function.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein on the SHBG study:
This work is the culmination of 7 years of observational research in which we noted in our practice many women with sexual dysfunction who had used the oral contraceptive but whose sexual and hormonal problems persisted despite stopping the birth control pill.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein on the SHBG study, again:
There are approximately 100 million women worldwide who currently use oral contraceptives, so it is obvious that more extensive research investigations are needed. The oral contraceptive has been around for over 40 years, but no one had previously looked at the long-term effects of SHBG in these women. The larger problem is that there have been limited research efforts in women’s sexual health problems in contrast to investigatory efforts in other areas of women’s health or even in male sexual dysfunction.
Dr. Claudia Panzer, lead author of the study on SHBG:
It is important for physicians prescribing oral contraceptives to point out to their patients potential sexual side effects, such as decreased desire, arousal, decreased lubrication and increased sexual pain. Also if women present with these complaints, it is crucial to recognize the link between sexual dysfunction and the oral contraceptive and not to attribute these complaints solely to psychological causes.
Dr. Panzer, once more:
An interesting observation was that the use of oral contraceptives led to changes in the synthesis of SHBG which were not completely reversible in our time frame of observation. This can lead to lower levels of ‘unbound’ testosterone, which is thought to play a major role in female sexual health. It would be important to conduct long-term studies to see if these increased SHBG changes are permanent.
Dr. Andre Guay, co-author of the study on SHBG:
We know that the birth control pill suppresses both ovulation and also the male hormones that the ovaries make in larger amounts during the middle third of the menstrual cycle. SHBG binds the testosterone, therefore, these pills decrease a woman’s male hormone availability by two separate mechanisms. No wonder so many women have had symptoms.
Dr. Lumma on Sexual Attraction:
The ultimate outstanding evolutionary question concerns whether the use of oral contraceptives when making mating decisions can have long-term consequences on the ability of couples to reproduce
This is not to condemn hormonal contraception. After all, hormonal contraception provides married couples with high effectiveness and the opportunity for spontaneous and natural love-making. There are also tons of success stories relating to hormonal contraception. Furthermore, this article is not to say that contraception is evil. On the contrary, it is a blessing and – for many married couples – a necessity.
Rather, this is a call for cautious decision-making. There is much to think about, including the non-sexual risks of hormonal contraception, risks which are not covered in this article. Virgins and waiters put a high premium on physical, mental, and spiritual health by delaying sex until marriage. This very premium should also be maintained when sexual activity is imminent, and this maintenance can be accomplished through careful, cautious, research and open discussion when chosing a form of contraception, whether hormonal or non-hormonal.
- Indiana University: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031082056.htm
- Female Sexual Dysfunction: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504074841.htm
- SHBG: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060104232338.htm
- Sexual Attraction: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091007124358.htm