The effect of combined oral contraceptives (COCs) on female sexuality has long been a matter of discussion, but placebo-controlled studies are lacking. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate if an oestradiol-containing COC influences sexual function.
Investigator-initiated, randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial where 202 healthy women were randomised to a combined oral contraceptive (1.5 mg oestradiol and 2.5 mg nomegestrol acetate) or placebo for three treatment cycles.
Sexual function at baseline and during the last week of the final treatment cycle was evaluated by the McCoy Female Sexuality Questionnaire. Serum and hair testosterone levels were assessed at the same time points.
Compared to placebo, COC use was associated with a small decrease in sexual interest (COC median change score: −2.0; interquartile range (IQR): −5.0 to 0.5 vs placebo: −1.0; IQR: −3.0 to 2.0, P = 0.019), which remained following adjustment for change in self-rated depressive symptoms (B = −0.80 ± 0.30, Wald = 7.08, P = 0.008). However, the proportion of women who reported a clinically relevant deterioration in sexual interest did not differ between COC or placebo users (COC 18 (22.2%) vs placebo 16 (17.8%), P = 0.47). Change in other measured aspects of sexual function as well as total score of sexual function did not differ between the two treatments.
This study suggests that use of oestradiol-based COCs is associated with reduced sexual interest. However, the changes are minute, and probably not of clinical relevance.