Does testosterone therapy help increase sex drive in women? What are the pros and cons?
Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
Research shows that the hormone testosterone may improve sexual function in specific groups of women, but data on safety and effectiveness are limited.
The long-term safety of testosterone therapy for women also is unknown. Given the limited research on effectiveness and safety and the number of potential serious side effects, testosterone isn't a common treatment for sexual dysfunction.
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.
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.
There are a wide variety of factors that can contribute to sexual dysfunction in women, which often has more than one cause. These factors include vaginal dryness, medication side effects, chronic health conditions, loss of a spouse or partner, lack of emotional intimacy, conflict, stress and mood concerns. A multidisciplinary approach to addressing these causes is typically best for improving this condition, as the data on the safety and effectiveness of testosterone remain limited.
Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.
June 19, 2019
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