You may be surprised to discover that women need testosterone. While testes produce the amount men need, a woman’s ovaries and adrenal glands produce the amount she needs, which is considerably less than a man, says Terry Gibbs, DO, whose certification in menopause medicine makes him a good choice for women with questions.
Why do women need testosterone? It helps maintain bone and muscle mass in women and contributes in a healthy way to their sex drives, Dr. Gibbs says.
Why does it taper off? Though young women have been known to experience low testosterone levels, “women who have been through menopause inevitably experience it because testosterone levels drop off slowly after menopause,” Dr. Gibbs says. For women who’ve had their ovaries removed, testosterone production drops by about 50 percent.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone? Generally, if a woman comes to Dr. Gibbs complaining of low energy, a loss of strength and/or a diminished sex drive, he tests testosterone levels. “A low sex drive can be an indication there’s a testosterone problem,” he says, adding there can be many other reasons for low drive.
If my testosterone is OK, then why don’t I want to have sex? Dr. Gibbs wants women to know it’s possible there’s more to their lack of interest in sex than low testosterone. “There are so many things that can cause a woman to turn away from sex, including depression, diabetes and other medical issues, medications and loss of hormones, which could result in a dry vagina, which, in turn, could cause pain during sex. When I take a patient’s history, we get into all of this so that we’re sure to treat the cause rather than just manage the symptoms.”
Dr. Gibbs stresses that whereas a man can take Viagra for his inability to sustain an erection (“It dilates the blood vessels and he’s ready to go”), for women, it’s a lot more complex. “We’d love to have lots of choices for women who experience a drop-off in their interest in sex. It’s just not that easy.”
Maintaining a good sex life is the best treatment for a low sex drive, Dr. Gibbs says. “I recommend having sex twice a week to keep the genital tissues healthy and the interest alive.”
As for low testosterone, if you experience the symptoms, make an appointment to see your physician, Dr. Gibbs advises.
What questions do you have about female testosterone? Let us know in the comments below.