What About Testosterone for Women?Jane Fonda, who turned 80 last year, gave a candid interview several years ago in which she admitted that her sex life needed some artificial help and she had been taking testosterone to boost it from the age of 70. She attributed her youthful looks and happy demeanour to a healthy love life.
“If you want to remain sexual and your libido has dropped, taking a small dose of the libido- boosting hormone testosterone makes a huge difference,” she said.
Evidence that women can become testosterone-deficient has been largely ignored. Only levels of the ‘female’ hormones progesterone and oestrogen were thought to be important for a woman’s health and well-being. But many experts now believe that it’s the loss of testosterone, not oestrogen, that causes women in midlife to gain weight, feel fatigue and lose mental focus, bone density and muscle tone.
The medical profession traditionally responds to menopausal complaints by prescribing oestrogen and progesterone, which ad- dress some of the usual menopause discomforts but do very little to enhance libido or energy. How- ever, there is a popular synthetic hormone on the market called Tibolone (Livial), which converts in the body to substances that act like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It is said to enhance women’s mood and libido, reduce hot flushes and sweats, improve vaginal dryness and protect against osteoporosis.
Professor Susan Davis from Monash University and her colleagues from the Jean Hailes Foundation in Melbourne have been studying testosterone for the past two decades and have conducted several intensive trials. Studies concluded that post-menopausal women on testosterone showed a significant improvement in cognitive function, verbal learning and memory. In another study, tests were done on two different doses (5mg and 10mg) of the testosterone cream known as AndroFeme1, which was developed in Australia. The 5mg dose brought postmenopausal women’s testosterone back into the normal premenopausal range.
It should be noted that low testosterone levels in women of all ages can be a key factor in female sexual dysfunction, especially diminished desire. Administering a low dose of testosterone can restore libido, heighten arousal and increase the frequency of sexual fantasies.
In my practice I see many women aged 30 and over who complain that they have no libido left and don’t feel like sex anymore. When I refer them to their GPs to have their hormone levels tested they are often low in testosterone. However, most GPs are not happy to prescribe women testosterone. As far as I know AndroFeme1 is only available in pharmacies in Western Australia on prescription.
Men have easy access to testosterone; they have the choice of testosterone gels, solutions, patches, capsules, injections and topical creams. Most physicians have no problems prescribing it. About $16.5 million is spent annually on testosterone products – not including sales by compounding pharmacies, which are mainly untested, or steroids bought at gyms or illegally over the Internet.
It’s time for Australian women to ask the question: Why is testosterone therapy easily available for men and not for women?