Katie is taking lead on this post. She has decided to share a very personal story of her decision to change her birth control method, and how it affected our relationship. Together we were able to evaluate our situation and come to a decision which we felt was best for our relationship and Katie’s body.
Birth control can have many positive effects on your relationship. Care free sex whenever you want, added stability and predictability for a woman, and the ability to plan your future. However there can be some hidden downsides to birth control and your relationship.
If you don’t explore and evaluate the pros and cons of your choice of birth control you might find your relationship heading in the wrong direction with no idea why.
This week I want to share with you how a small tear in my relationship with my husband Chris, started to create a bigger hole. We saw a problem but were both too scared and uncomfortable to talk about it. It took many unhappy nights for us to finally open up and start repairing the damage.
Does Birth Control Affect Sex Drive?
I want to give you a little background so you understand why this is such a complicated issue. Many women are currently taking hormonal birth control, like the pill or IUD contraception.
When decreased sex drive is included in the list of side effects it is considered a less serious side effect and often times it is not even mentioned or included as “mood changes”.
When looking for clinical trials focused on hormonal birth control and libido it was hard finding anything but anecdotal data from personal experiences. An FDA report found 6.4% of Mirena IUD users reported depressed/altered mood.
A European study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women were more likely to experience sexual dysfunction when on any form of hormonal birth control vs. non hormonal birth control or no birth control.
This remains a difficult subject to study and have accurate results because of all the variables known to affect the female sex drive.
Take Away Points
Do not be afraid to talk openly with your doctor and ask questions. You have the right to know as much as possible about how Birth Control can affect your body and mind.
If you are in a relationship and looking into starting Birth Control, speak with your partner about what suits you both best.
In the end the woman has the final say on what she wants to do with her body, but it’s important to be aware of the partner’s feelings and preferences.
The Pros and Cons of Birth Control
I started the birth control pill when I was 16. My menstrual cycle was a horror story that most teens could relate to. I had my period for 7-8 days a week, a heavy flow, and terrible cramps that kept me curled in a ball on the couch for hours.
My parents were practical people and brought me to a doctor to ask about starting the pill. It was like magic. My period decreased to 5 days, cramps almost disappeared and it went from Niagara Falls to a trickle. Bonus points for clearing up my acne and giving me bigger boobs without the weight gain. I loved the pill and never wanted to stop.
I became sexually active soon after and loved the added safety; it is made for birth control after all. My sex drive seemed normal, if not higher than most girls my age and I never had a second thought about whether it affected my libido one way or the other. It was just part of who I was.
Fast forward through 11 years of birth control, to being happily married and about to go on the honeymoon of a lifetime. I was finding taking the pill to be more of a hassle, I was forgetting to take it and it was becoming a very ineffective form of birth control.
This was when I started looking for something with lower maintenance and after some research and multiple appointments with my doctor; I decided to have the Mirena IUD inserted. It would mean not having to even think about my birth control for the next 5 years.
The insertion went well and I was aware of all the possible IUD Complications and side effects that come up the first few months. I had intense cramps, spotting, and very irregular periods for the first 3 months but I knew those things would pass. Chris and I left on our 6 month long honeymoon and we happily started a new exciting chapter in our lives.
Take Away Points
There are many birth control options out there like the pill, hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, injections, the ring, and condoms. And all these options have different pros and cons depending on whether you want something with less maintenance, are starting a new relationship, just had a child, or have any other reasons for starting or changing birth control.
If you use one and it doesn’t work or your needs change then have a talk with your doctor to try something else. Do not feel trapped by your birth control; you are in charge of your body and there are many options out there.
The Loss of Sexual Satisfaction
Here is where the story gets tricky and where studies don’t always get things right. We were living in a camper van, travelling across the USA, trying to find free places to sleep, and navigating a whole new world. We got stressed sometimes, didn’t always shower, and were tired at the end of long days of hiking and sightseeing.
So at first neither of us were too concerned when 1 week went by without any sex, and then 2 weeks, and then maybe just a quickie to “get it over with” and go to bed. Eventually though, Chris’s needs were not being met and I could not get a hold of any desire to have sex.
I silently suffered and so did he.
Most women will know and understand the thoughts passing through my mind. Did getting married really just turn off my sex drive like all the jokes say? Did I make a mistake marrying Chris? Would we end up unhappy and divorced? Was I not attracted to him anymore?
I thought it was all my fault and I was being a bad wife, a bad woman, unloving and uncaring. These thoughts ripped through me for almost a month and I wanted to cry every night but I didn’t know how to talk to Chris about it. I couldn’t tell him I didn’t want to have sex with him. I couldn’t explain that to myself so how could I explain it to him.
Chris was the one to bring it up after another failed attempt at being intimate. As he lay in bed next to me he asked what was wrong. I still didn’t know and I was scared but we started to talk.
This is what I discovered. I was still in love with Chris and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I was physically and mentally attracted to him still. It didn’t take me longer to realize I still checked out his butt when he bent over and I always reached for his hand to hold as we walked.
This realization alone took a huge weight off my chest and allowed us to get down to solving the problem together.
Take Away Points
When you start a new birth control, especially one with hormones, be attentive to any changes physically or mentally afterwards.
Make sure your partner is aware of when you start new birth control as they can be more objective observers to your behaviour.
Side Effects of the Mirena IUD
After discussing our point of views, I noticed some trends in my behaviour. First and foremost I had lost my sex drive. I never initiated sex and was often very quick to “get it over with”.
When digging deeper into this I realized a huge part of the problem was that I had what could be described as a flat affect, which had crept into the rest of my life.
I was on the trip of a lifetime and wasn’t able to express my emotions fully. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t bored, I was just dulled. My best example is how normally when I was kissing Chris my hips would naturally start gyrating. This had stopped completely and I would be perfectly still without even realizing it.
Chris would often ask if I was okay because I would be staring off into space frozen.
We needed to figure this out so we kept communicating. We made a timeline of when this behaviour started and what all the triggers could be. Visit our post on how to discuss problems within your relationship to learn exactly how we communicated respectfully and openly.
The one big change that kept coming up was when I got my IUD inserted so we followed the trail and did some research. I discovered many other personal accounts of the exact same physical and emotional changes and how they were fixed as soon as the IUD was removed.
It was such a relief to know that the issue could be completely external. You would think I would pull it out right there but we tried to be rational.
We didn’t want to just blame the IUD for issues that could still be emotional so we planned activities like massages, to help us reconnect sexually. Date nights were planned where we could shower and dress up to feel more confident and sexy.
We constantly communicated how we were both feeling and these simple acts brought us closer together in other non sexual ways.
Take Away Points
Although the problem may lie with your birth control, it is still important to look at the whole picture. Going through a rough patch in your relationship can leave holes that need fixing.
Do not assume that fixing the external problem will fix all your relationship problems. Get back to basics and reconnect with your partner.
Communication is always key to recognizing each other’s needs during this time.
Mirena IUD Removal
In the end we decided we would remove the IUD and see what kind of effect it would have. I am careful to use the term “WE” because even though it is my body to control and do with as I please, it was our problem and the decision was made as a couple to help us move forward.
Birth Control affects both parties positively and negatively. After more research and a conversation with my doctor, who was back home in Montreal, I was given the go ahead to remove it myself. As a nurse I felt confident in my abilities and knowledge in case anything went wrong.
I suggest anyone looking to attempt Mirena IUD removal to speak with their doctor first, but it was as simple as taking out a tampon and there was only a little feeling of pressure as it was pulled out. I also suggest that someone else is present and you have access to a hospital in case of any complications.
Take Away Points
Be safe! These decisions should not be made lightly or on impulse. Hormonal birth control affects your body in a biological way and a sudden change in hormones could cause new issues.
Speak with your doctor before stopping or removing anything and be aware of any changes that you see or feel in the following weeks.
The Best Birth Control Option
I have been IUD free for 3 years now and the change was almost immediate. After 2 weeks I could feel a change in my reactions when Chris touched me. I started to lean in more and I would catch my hips moving while we kissed and start laughing.
I am now able to get lost in the joys of sex again and the relief in knowing that is immense. Chris is happy to have me back to my normal sexual self and takes advantage of it as much as he can.
On the flip side we faced new challenges. For the first time in my sexually active life, I was not on birth control. We were forced to use condoms for the first time in years which neither of us are fond of but the pros outweighed the cons.
After more discussion I decided to go back on birth control pills and have been taking them for 3 years again now. I have not experienced any serious side effects and my sex drive remains pretty darn good.
We are not looking to have children yet so it’s all about finding balance. This experience, although unpleasant, has forced us to become better communicators, made us appreciate sex more, and brought us closer together on a million other levels.
We are now ready to face our next challenge.
Take Away Points
After stopping one form of birth control, have backup plans. If you are not looking to start a family yet, see your doctor to try something new or use condoms.
The best birth control option is the one that you and your partner are most likely to agree upon and use consistently.
A Lesson Learned
Everyone’s bodies are different and everyone reacts to birth control differently. My story is not to scare you away from IUDs, as I know many people who have happily had one for years without any problems.
I am sharing this story so that others can learn and be aware of their bodies, their relationship, and their intuition. Trust yourself, trust your partner, and you will find the solution.
Take Away Points
Relationships are held together by thousands of threads that all connect and intermingle, creating a tightly woven web. A single strand breaking will not cause a relationship to fall apart, but it may weaken the surrounding area and eventually create a hole.
It is so important that you and your partner are aware of all these threads and realize that they are all important in their own ways. It is much easier to fix a small tear then a gaping hole.
Relationships take constant work and upkeep. Be open with your partner, discuss issues, discuss changes, and never stop communicating.
Whether it’s about birth control or not, being able to talk openly with your partner allows you to face the problem and find the core of the issue.
You will be better able to focus on the specifics and it will become more manageable. Oftentimes we turn molehills into mountains and that makes the problem seem unfixable when really there are simple solutions.
Images courtesy of ambro, marin and areeya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net