Testosterone is a hormone that’s often associated with men, and many people are aware that a man’s testosterone level can have an impact on his health. However, testosterone is actually an important hormone for women too. How does low testosterone affect women? Why might they have low levels? Can women safely take testosterone supplements?
Can women have low testosterone?
Although the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are more commonly associated with females, the female body also produces a significant amount of testosterone. About half of a woman’s testosterone is normally produced by the ovaries, while the rest is produced by the adrenal glands. Research is increasingly showing that it’s important in a variety of functions in the female body, including libido (sex drive), maintaining bone and muscle mass, and even fertility. In a female, low testosterone can lead to a variety of effects.
Low testosterone symptoms in a woman
There are a variety of possible signs of low testosterone in women, including:
- Reduced sex drive
- Decreased bone density
- Fatigue and low energy
- Muscle weakness or reduced muscle mass
- Fertility problems
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight gain
It’s important to note that many of these symptoms can also have other causes, including depression and thyroid problems. It’s important for a woman to get her testosterone levels tested in order to find out if low testosterone is the cause of her symptoms.
Causes of low testosterone in women
Some of the potential causes of low testosterone in women include:
- Aging. Menopause naturally reduces the female body’s production of testosterone along with other sex hormones.
- Taking estrogen therapy. High levels of estrogen can decrease the female body’s natural production of testosterone.
- Surgical removal of the ovaries.
- Adrenal insufficiency.
- Problems with the pituitary gland.
Treatment of low testosterone in females
If a woman has low testosterone, then she may want to try various ways to boost her testosterone naturally. Methods may include exercise, increasing sleep, decreasing stress, and eating a healthy diet. Some women with low sex drive find that sex therapy is helpful in regaining their desire for and pleasure during sex.
In a female with low testosterone, some studies show that supplementing testosterone may be helpful in certain cases. It’s very important to be careful with the dose, because taking too much testosterone can lead to infertility, growth of facial hair, and other undesired effects in women. Studies have shown that it’s possible to use enough testosterone to address the side effects of low testosterone in females, without causing masculinizing side effects like deepening of the voice and growth of facial hair.
Currently, there is not enough research for testosterone therapy to be FDA-approved in women for improving sex drive, because the long-term safety of this treatment has not been established. Men with high testosterone have a higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and other serious health issues. Some people are concerned that supplementing testosterone in women might also increase their risk for these problems. In general, doctors usually only recommend supplementing testosterone in women if they are postmenopausal or have had surgical removal of their ovaries, and are taking estrogen therapy which has not been enough to relieve their symptoms. If you’re a female with low testosterone, you can talk with your doctor more about the pros and cons of trying testosterone supplements.
How does low testosterone affect a woman?
A woman with low testosterone will often experience a variety of effects, including low energy and low sex drive. In general, the symptoms experienced by females with low testosterone are fairly similar to those experienced by males with low testosterone. Even though a man’s normal level of testosterone is much higher than a woman’s, either sex can experience effects on their energy levels, mood, and other body functions when their testosterone is below normal for their sex.
Do a woman’s testosterone levels change during her menstrual cycle?
In a premenopausal woman, testosterone levels change throughout the menstrual cycle. This needs to be taken into account when a premenopausal woman is testing her testosterone levels. In a woman who is past menopause, the levels of testosterone can still vary from day to day and even throughout a single day, but the monthly changes will no longer occur.
How does a woman know if she has low testosterone?
The only way for a woman to know for sure if she has low testosterone is to test her levels. You can visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms; your doctor may order a testosterone test, and you’ll go to a lab to have blood drawn for the test. Alternatively, there are a number of home testing kits available, which may use blood or saliva. Like home STD testing kits, these are delivered to your home. You take the sample and send it back to the lab, then get the results by email as soon as they’re available.
It’s important to note that, while research has indicated that saliva is a reliable source for testing both male and female testosterone levels, this has not yet been definitively confirmed. If you choose a kit that uses a saliva sample, and you get an abnormal result, then you may want to follow this up with a blood test to be sure.
Huang G, Bazaria S, et al. Testosterone Dose-Response Relationships in Hysterectomized Women with and without Oophorectomy: Effects on Sexual Function, Body Composition, Muscle Performance and Physical Function in a Randomized Trial. Menopause. 2014 Jun; 21(6): 612–623. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000093
Keevil BG, MacDonald P, et al. Salivary Testosterone Measurement by Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry in Adult Males and Females. Ann Clin Biochem. 2014 May; 51(Pt 3): 368–378. doi: 10.1177/0004563213506412
Mazer N. Testosterone deficiency in women: etiologies, diagnosis, and emerging treatments. Int J Fertil Womens Med Mar-Apr 2002;47(2):77-86.
Testosterone therapy for women: Can it improve your sex life? Harvard Medical School (2019). https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/testosterone-therapy-for-women-can-it-improve-your-sex-life. Accessed 14 April 2022.
Testosterone therapy in women: Does it boost sex drive? Mayo Clinic (2021). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/expert-answers/testosterone-therapy/faq-20057935. Accessed 14 April 2022.
Vegunta S, King JM, et al. Androgen Therapy in Women. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2020 Jan;29(1):57-64. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7494.