When women think of the word testosterone they often think of MEN. To sum it up, testosterone is what makes a man a man (so to speak) while estrogen and progesterone are often more associated with women.
However, testosterone is just as important to women, just not in the same high level amounts.
These are five things about testosterone that may have you asking your health care provider for a test.
1) Testosterone is made from cholesterol (its backbone) and another hormone known as DHEA.
DHEA is made in the adrenal glands and can help with stress, increased energy and low mood. The more well known DHEA is DHEA-S, which is the one to test for.
Supplementing with DHEA should be done in the morning however; women should use lower doses than men. The side effects can include increased anger, irritation, acne and inappropriate hair growth often on the face, nipples and chest.
2) Testosterone helps significantly with energy, motivation, sense of well-being and sex drive in women.
When testing for this hormone, the total and free levels should be evaluated as the ‘free’ is active. Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) should be tested as well, as high levels of this hormone means low levels of testosterone as the SHBG binds up excess testosterone.
Testosterone has similar side effects to elevated DHEA and should be used with caution only under your health care provider’s direction. Additionally, women who have a history of cancer, specifically estrogen-type cancers, and vascular disease should not use testosterone.
3) Testosterone is not a magic pill for sex drive.
Many women have normal levels of testosterone and still find themselves lacking in desire. A lot more goes into the libido for women than it does in men. As women get older, their hormone levels overall change but so do their energy levels, sleep habits and stress which all interfere with their sex drive.
4) Testosterone is made in both the ovaries and adrenal glands.
Women who had their ovaries surgically removed may notice a significant decline in testosterone in the body.
5) The birth control pill, if used correctly, protects against unwanted pregnancy but can also lower sex drive by lowering testosterone.
The pill increases SHBG creating lower levels of free testosterone. With less testosterone floating around, the desire for sex is less.
Just as a man might need testosterone replacement, so might a women but with significantly lower doses. Consider asking your health care provider about testosterone and DHEA-S testing if hormone changes, fatigue, mood issues, and lower sex drive are occurring on a regular basis. Your hormones may truly be out of balance.
1. Androgen Replacement Therapy in Women. Web. 2 December, 2012.
2. Birth Control Pill Could Cause Long-Term Problems With Testosterone, New Research Indicates. Web. 2 December, 2012.
3. Androgen Deficiency in Women. Web. 4 December, 2012.
Reviewed December 5, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith