Testosterone Therapy: Does it increase sex drive?
What causes a decreased libido?
Many women experience a decreased libido for a range of
reasons. Low testosterone levels can be one reason a woman
may experience decreased libido. Other causes include
depression or emotional distance between sexual partners.
Antidepressants (especially Prozac and Zoloft) commonly have the
side effect of decreasing a person's sexual drive. A more obvious
reason for why a woman may not desire sex is because she simply
does not desire the person she is considering having sex with. Sex
is both a mental and physical activity, as is often the case in the
reasons for not having sex.
Will testosterone help?
Testosterone will work to increase a woman's sex drive, but other
treatments should also be looked into because testosterone
therapy has some risks. If decreased libido is of concern to a
woman she should explore the causes with a doctor or health care
provider before jumping into testosterone therapy. Testosterone is
only prescribed for decreased libido due to menopause. It is also
only used short term and should not be considered a permanent
solution, as little research has been done to confirm its
effectiveness or safety in women.
How does it work?
A woman's body naturally produces small amounts of testosterone
that work in combination with the production of estrogen, among
other hormones. Frequently when a woman reaches menopause,
she ceases to produce as much testosterone and progesterone,
and in turn may experience a decreased sex drive. These
hormones can be replaced and managed through hormone
replacement therapy (HRT). But when a woman chooses to elevate
her levels of testosterone, she also counteracts some of the
protective qualities of HRT. HRT has been found to carry its own
risks (such as an increased risk of breast cancer), but it also
greatly decreases the risk of heart disease, which is a leading
cause of death for women.
Side effects include facial hair growth and acne. Weight gain and
liver damage could also result, although since the testosterone
used in this therapy is a fairly low dosage, these more severe side
effects are much less common.
Women with elevated levels of testosterone also have higher blood
pressure and increased risk of heart disease. If a woman chooses
to raise her levels of testosterone she should first be screened for
signs and symptoms of heart disease. High levels of estrogen
relative to progestin levels may be associated with a loss of libido.
However, estrogen replacement can also result in a decreased
risk of osteoporosis and possibly slow the development of
Alzheimer's. For menopausal women who choose testosterone
therapy, they may desire sex more frequently, but they will also
experience the symptoms of menopause more intensely.
The Bottom Line
Testosterone levels can be raised in women through patches
applied to the skin or through injection. A woman should ask her
doctor about starting with a very small dose, as this often causes
the desired effects without the risks. Adjusting the dose can
It is important to remember that the relationship between sexual
drive and testosterone has not been extensively explored. It has
been shown to increase libido, but researchers are still unsure
about what other variables are at work. Other ovarian hormones,
including estrogen and progesterone may also play a role, despite
the lack of strong evidence at this point. There are also questions
about whether testosterone effects only sexual motivation, or
whether it also effects sexual activity. Sexual desire is most
probably an interaction between hormones and a woman's
emotional, physical, and psychological situation at any given