Women and Libido


Long associated only with male sexuality and development, a woman’s testosterone levels, in addition to other factors, affect her sexual responsiveness as well.  Research shows that testosterone therapy boosts libido in women with diminished sexual drive and remedies a variety of other sexual dysfunctions in certain women.  Although males produce far more testosterone than females, the female body produces small amounts of testosterone in the ovaries and adrenal glands.

Role of Testosterone in Females

Testosterone levels in healthy women reach only 10 percent of that in men.  However, testosterone is responsible for stimulating the growth of pubic hair in girls and contributes to the strength of muscle and bone. For women, testosterone levels reach their peak in the early to mid-twenties and slowly diminish to negligible levels in the late forties and early fifties. While testosterone may contribute to a healthy libido in women, a woman’s sexual desire involves many more complex and significant factors. Concerned women should speak to their OB/GYN physician about concerns of diminished sexual desire.

Why Would a Female Try Testosterone Therapy?

Menopausal changes not only cause symptoms such as hot flashes and memory loss, but sexual dysfunction as well.  Many menopausal women suffer from dryness of the vagina, painful intercourse, and diminished sexual drive.  Testosterone therapy raises testosterone levels in the body.  In women, it could improve sexual desire and responsiveness, elevate mood, and contribute improved psychological well-being. However, its use could also result in the emergence of male physical traits, when taken in inappropriately elevated doses or for an extended period of time.  Some of these undesirable traits include the deepening of the voice, an increase in facial and body hair, and increased acne.

Who Might Benefit From Testosterone Therapy?

An OB/GYN doctor may consider therapy for patients of childbearing age who have had a full hysterectomy, who have had their ovaries removed, or those with a low sexual drive not caused by medications.  Menopausal women, who have tried traditional hormone replacement therapy unsuccessfully, should inquire about this alternative as well.  Those with problems involving an underactive pituitary gland and suffering from diminished sexual drive or responsiveness, should speak to an OB/GYN about testosterone therapy and whether it is appropriate for their particular condition.

Who Should Not Consider Testosterone Therapy?

Women who could become pregnant must use a very effective birth control method if undergoing testosterone therapy.  The therapy could cause a female fetus to take on permanent male traits.  Women who have had uterine or breast cancer or who have liver disease are not candidates for testosterone therapy; nor are those with a history of high cholesterol or heart disease.

Is It Safe?

The use of testosterone in women for longer than six months has not been sufficiently studied.  An OB/GYN physician can prescribe testosterone in the form of a gel, cream, time-released patch, or pill. Until Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves testosterone therapy for women, it is considered an off-labelprescription.  A drug prescription is considered off-label when a physician prescribes it for a use not yet approved by the FDA. Women experiencing low sexual desire with no accompanying life stresses or emotional issues should make an appointment at their local OB/GYN clinic.  A qualified OB/GYN physician can listen to and evaluate these concerns to determine whether testosterone therapy is appropriate.