For the Ladies
Will testosterone make women happier?
Jane Fonda gave a candid interview three years ago in which she admitted that her sex life needed some artificial help and she had been taking testosterone to boost it, from the age of 70. She attributed her youthful looks and happy demeanor to a healthy love life. “If you want to remain sexual and your libido has dropped, taking a small dose of the libido-boosting hormone testosterone makes a huge difference,” she said.
Evidence that women can also become testosterone-deficient is largely ignored. Only levels of the “female” hormones progesterone and estrogen were thought to be important for a woman’s health and well-being. But many experts now believe that it’s the loss of testosterone, not estrogen, that causes women in midlife to gain weight, feel fatigue and lose mental focus, bone density and muscle tone.
Many women reaching menopause are scared off by the belief that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can cause breast cancer. In 2002 a Women’s Health Initiative study in the United States was halted when researchers noticed an unexpectedly high rate of breast cancer among older women taking HRT. This alarming finding frightened millions of women, and their doctors, away from hormone therapy at menopause.
A decade later, medical professionals agreed that the 2002 findings were flawed and hormone replacement therapy is not as risky as once believed. Unfortunately, many women still believe hormone replacement is not safe and, too often, uninformed GPs advise women against taking HRT. Controlled studies show that slightly increasing testosterone levels in aging women can restore libido, increase arousal and the frequency of sexual fantasies. Low testosterone levels in women of all ages is a key factor in female sexual dysfunction, especially diminished desire and libido. Administering a low dose of testosterone has also been shown to improve mood and overall well-being.