Despite the prevalence of libido problems in women, few women know about the use of low-dose testosterone. In fact, testosterone for women with low libido is one of the best-researched treatments for this condition. With 1 in 10 U.S. women estimated to have “hypoactive sexual desire disorder,” the official medical term for low libido, research on treatments for this condition continues to expand. Meanwhile, more and more doctors, natural, integrative, and conventional, are successfully treating women with low libido by utilizing testosterone therapies.
What is testosterone and how does it treat libido issues in women?
Testosterone is an important steroid hormone in women as well as men. Women’s testosterone levels decline with age, with the most drastic fall occurring right before menopause. In addition to affecting women’s sexual function and desire, evidence suggests that testosterone has beneficial effects on women’s well-being and energy as well as bones and muscle mass, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health; although researchers admit that further research regarding its effects in these areas is needed.
The research supports the effectiveness of testosterone for women and suggests it is safe
Large, randomized, controlled trials have shown that testosterone therapy improves desire, arousal, frequency of orgasms and sexual satisfaction in both pre- and post-menopausal women.[1-3] The studies indicate that you don’t need to have abnormally low testosterone levels in order to benefit from testosterone therapy. I have prescribed low doses of compounded bioidentical testosterone cream for some female patients when less invasive natural therapies failed and found it to be effective in some, but certainly not all, cases. The latest research indicates long-term use of low-dose testosterone in women is likely safe and it does not appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer. The main side effects reported in clinical trials, when there were any side effects, were increased hair growth and acne.
What about other hormones for women with low libido?
DHEA is a hormone made by the adrenal glands that converts to testosterone in the body. Research suggests DHEA is another hormone therapy which may be beneficial for women with decreased sexual desire, especially if it is used directly in the vagina as a suppository rather than taken orally. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers evaluated the effect of daily DHEA vaginal suppositories for 12 weeks in 218 postmenopausal women. They assessed libido, arousal, orgasm, and pain with intercourse using a daily suppository of either no DHEA, 3.25 mg DHEA, 6.5 mg DHEA, or 13 mg DHEA.
After 12 weeks, compared with placebo, the 13 mg suppository improved arousal/sensation by 68%, arousal/lubrication by 39%, orgasms by 75%, and dryness during intercourse by 57%. The 13 mg DHEA dose also led to a 49% improvement in desire compared with only a 23% improvement in the placebo group. Blood levels of DHEA and other steroid hormones showed no or minimal changes during the study period of up to 12 weeks. “This bodes well for safety issues,” says naturopathic physician Tori Hudson, a leader in integrative health for women. It is great news for those women and healthcare providers who prefer to avoid increasing body-wide levels of hormones for safety reasons.
Is there anything else that can treat low libido in women?
Testosterone for women with low libido is most effective when accompanied by other natural and holistic therapies. Many times, other hormone imbalances need to be addressed, including thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, and estrogen. Building overall health and vitality through targeted nutrition with supplements and dietary changes, improved sleep, and stress reduction may also be helpful. Certain herbal remedies, such as Maca, have also been found to boost libido and may be so effective that no hormonal treatments are needed. In addition, many couples need to address sex and relationship issues, figuring out new ways to connect. A qualified naturopathic physician or integrative doctor can guide you through these libido-boosting therapies and prescribe the testosterone or DHEA you need to get your libido up and running again.