A prospective study of the effects of oral contraceptives on sexuality and well-being and their relationship to discontinuation

Contraception. 2001 Jul;64(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(01)00218-9.


The purpose of the study was to explore predictors of discontinuation of oral contraceptives (OC) including pre-OC use characteristics and adverse physical, emotional, and sexual effects of OCs. Women aged 18+ years in committed, sexually active relationships were assessed before starting OC and reassessed at 3, 6, and 12 months or shortly after discontinuation. Assessment included pre-OC use attitudes and expectations about the pill; self-reported side effects and perimenstrual symptoms including premenstrual syndrome (PMS); physical and emotional well-being; and sexual interest, enjoyment, and frequency of sexual activity. Seventy-nine women completed the study, 38% continued OCs, 47% discontinued, and 14% switched to another OC. Emotional side effects, worsening of PMS, decreased frequency of sexual thoughts, and decreased psychosexual arousability correctly categorized 87% of cases by using logistic regression. Emotional and sexual side effects were the best predictors of discontinuation/switching, yet such OC effects have been largely ignored in the research literature.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude
  • Contraception
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / adverse effects*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / administration & dosage*
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Norgestrel / administration & dosage*
  • Norgestrel / adverse effects*
  • Norgestrel / analogs & derivatives*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexuality / drug effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Norgestrel
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • norgestimate