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

Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.

The hormone testosterone may boost sex drive for some women after menopause. But there's little research on how safe it is and how well it works over the long term. It also can cause side effects.

Menopause happens naturally with age. It also can happen early for medical reasons, such as surgery to remove the ovaries. If you've gone through either type of menopause, testosterone therapy may help for low sex drive that has no clear cause. More research is needed to find out whether this treatment is safe and effective before menopause.

Most often, other treatments are tried before testosterone. These include low doses of the hormone estrogen and a type of counseling called sex therapy. Some depression medicines also may boost sex drive.

Due to a lack of research on long-term safety, testosterone therapy isn't right for women with heart, blood vessel or liver disease. It's also not for those who've had breast or uterine cancer. If you have a high risk of any of these conditions, talk with a member of your health care team about the risks of taking testosterone.

In the United States and many other countries, government agencies that regulate medicines haven't approved testosterone therapy for women. But it can be prescribed if it might have a medical benefit for someone.

Testosterone comes in many forms. These include creams, ointments and gels that go on the legs, arms or stomach area. The type and amount you take relate to safety risks, so talk with your health care team about the pros and cons of each.

Side effects of testosterone might include:

  • Acne.
  • Hair growth on the face and body.
  • Hair loss on the head.
  • Weight gain.

Low sex drive and other sexual troubles often have more than one cause. Factors that can play a role include vaginal dryness, medicine side effects, long-term health conditions, lack of emotional closeness, stress and mood concerns. A mix of treatments may work best. Examples include counseling, lifestyle changes and medicine.


Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.

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April 22, 2023 See more Expert Answers