Will testosterone make women happier?

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018
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Balance restored: Jane Fonda has touted the benefits of taking testosterone later in life.

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 demeanour 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.

Several studies have shown the importance of maintaining healthy testosterone levels in males and doctors have started to recognise the benefits of testosterone therapy for aging men and also for younger men who have testosterone-deficiency.

But evidence that women can also become testosterone-deficient is largely ignored. Only levels of the "female" hormones progesterone and oestrogen were thought to be important for a woman's health and wellbeing. But many experts now believe that it's the loss of testosterone, not oestrogen, that causes women in midlife to gain weight, feel fatigue and lose mental focus, bone density and muscle tone.

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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 might not be 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 instead of explaining the benefits and risks to allow them to make an informed choice. Why should so many women feel miserable during menopause when they don't need to?

The medical profession traditionally responds to menopausal complaints by prescribing oestrogen and progesterone, which address some of the usual menopause discomforts but do very little to enhance libido or energy. However, there is a popular synthetic hormone called Tibolone (Livial) on the market that converts in the body to substances that act like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It is said to enhance women's mood and libido, reduce hot flushes and sweats, improve vaginal dryness and protect against osteoporosis.

A 2010 medical review showed that testosterone does not increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, but may actually play a key role in preventing the disease.

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Will testosterone make women happier?

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