Sure, we may complain about birth control — between unwanted side effects like mood swings and the annoyance of having to take a pill every day, taking contraceptives can really seem like a pain sometimes. But new research shows there are unexpected benefits of birth control — namely, more sex!
Previous studies into contraceptives have focused on less-fun but obviously important research areas, ranging from STI rates to your risk of getting pregnant. But a new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health takes a decidedly different tack, focusing on the enjoyment side of the equation. Researchers studied the effects of taking hormonal birth control on a couple's sex life. And it turned out, couples who took birth control were more likely to have sex than those who didn't.
And just what is it about using contraception, such as the pill or IUD, that makes couples more likely to have sex on the regular?
"Contraception is a tool that can separate sex from pregnancy. That can transform the role of sex in a relationship from just procreation to also enjoyment," said study author Suzanne Bell at a family planning conference in Bali.
Bell and her team got some reliable numbers on this, analyzing data from questionnaires answered over a 10-year period by more than 210,000 women from 47 middle- and low-income countries across the world. All their subjects were in long-term relationships or cohabiting with their partners. Researchers asked each woman whether they'd had sex in the past four weeks and if they were using contraception — 90 per cent of those using contraception reported having sex compared to 72 per cent of those who weren't using contraception.
What's refreshing about this study is the fact that Bell and her co-author, David Bishai, focused on an area that affects a woman's quality of life rather than birth rate or disease data, which would be most valuable to outside authorities like the government and drug companies. "Knowing how often women have sex — and what role contraception plays in that — can give us a better understanding of how meeting our family planning goals of improving access and meeting demand might impact people's lives beyond decreasing lifetime fertility," explained Bell.
Researchers accounted for cultural differences that affected the data, as a woman's likelihood to have sex was determined in part by what country she lived in. For instance, women living in Benin in West Africa had the least sex in a four-week period (only 61 per cent reported having sex), while women living in Jordan had the most sex (94 per cent).
In Canada, about 58 per cent of women between 20 and 29 take oral contraceptives, while under 8 per cent use IUDs. And 12 per cent of women use the withdrawal or "pull-out" method. If the trends Bell and Bishai found in middle- to low-income countries are any indication, I have a sneaking suspicion that those of us using birth control may be spending more time in the sheets with our partners.
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