Roberta is a middle aged lady who has noted that her sex drive and interest in sex has been reduced to near zero. After watching the movie Hope Springs starring Meryl Streep, Roberta made the decision to go to her doctor and share her situation. She had a blood test that checked her testosterone level and found that she was running on empty. She received a small testosterone pellet under her skin and reports that her “sex light” has been flipped to the on position.
Testosterone is the most celebrated, feared and misunderstood of all human hormones. Our culture lauds this substance’s leading role in male virility and casts it as the villain in acts of violent crime. In truth, testosterone is neither miracle nor monster, but rather, a key player in the complex chemistry of human hormones. When balanced by other hormones, testosterone, also known as androgen, plays a lead role in the health and well-being of both sexes.
Testosterone is known for decades as a male hormone. Testosterone is also made in small amounts by a woman’s ovaries. Just like in a man, a woman’s testosterone is highest around age 20 and slowly declines till it is half as high in her 40s. Women taking testosterone may have more sexual thoughts, fantasies, sexual activity, and satisfaction from sexual intimacy.
At the present time testosterone is not an FDA approved treatment used to raise a woman’s sexual interest, arousal, and satisfaction. Testosterone is available by using a skin patch, gel, cream, or a pellet inserted under the skin as I described for Roberta. Many supplements and herbal medicines, such as DHEA, may interact with testosterone. Be sure to tell your doctor about any nonprescription medicines, supplements, or herbs you are taking before receiving testosterone replacement therapy.
Women with low testosterone levels who might benefit from low-dose testosterone therapy include those who:
▪ Have had their ovaries removed. This causes a sudden drop in testosterone, which may decrease sex drive and satisfaction.
▪ Have a low sex drive that does not seem to be caused by a medicine, nor by relationship or stress-related problems.
Testosterone should be avoided in women who could become pregnant, have or have had breast or uterine cancer, have high cholesterol or heart disease or have liver disease.
Like nearly every medication, testosterone use in women has side effects especially if excessive testosterone is used. You are taking a dose that is too high if you have acne or oily skin, male-pattern hair growth on the face and body, anger and hostility problems, shrinking breast size, hoarseness or a deeper voice, irregular menstrual cycles, if you have been menstruating, or an increase in the size of your clitoris.
Bottom Line: Testosterone is also a necessary hormone for women just as it is for men but at a much lower dosage. Testosterone replacement can be a boon for women with a low sex desire, decrease in fantasies, and decrease enjoyment from sexual intimacy. See you doctor, get your testosterone level checked and if it is decreased, talk to your doctor about receiving testosterone replacement.
For those who want even more information I suggest Dr. Susan Rako’s book, “The Hormone of Desire: The Truth About Sexuality, Menopause and Testosterone.”