Does testosterone therapy help increase sex drive in women? What are the pros and cons?

Answers from Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D.

Research shows that the hormone testosterone does impact sex drive — as well as remedy other sexual problems — in certain women with sexual dysfunction. But the long-term safety of testosterone therapy for women is unknown. For this reason, some doctors are hesitant to recommend it. Testosterone therapy usually is prescribed only for women who have sufficient estrogen levels.

Testosterone therapy might be appropriate if:

  • You have reduced sex drive, depression and fatigue after surgically induced menopause, and estrogen therapy hasn't relieved your symptoms
  • You are postmenopausal, taking estrogen therapy and have a decreased sex drive with no other identifiable causes

Long-term safety data on testosterone therapy for postmenopausal women who have a history of breast or uterine cancer or those who have cardiovascular or liver disease is lacking and being studied.

Testosterone therapy comes in many forms, such as creams, gels, patches or pills. The method of administration and dose relate to safety risks, so it's important to discuss pros and cons with your doctor.

Testosterone preparations are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in women. So if testosterone is prescribed, it's for off-label use.

Although testosterone contributes to healthy sexual function in women, many other factors also play a role in postmenopausal sexual dysfunction. These factors include decreased estrogen levels, vaginal dryness, medication side effects, chronic health conditions, loss of a spouse or partner, lack of emotional intimacy, conflict, stress, or mood concerns.

Apr. 11, 2013