Can Testosterone Help Low Sexual Desire in Women?

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

In 1998 many couples facing low sexual desire got the help they needed - but only if the male partner has a low libido - when Viagra was approved. Women, however, don't yet have an approved pharmaceutical answer to losing their desire for sex. Testosterone might be the answer. This hormone is usually thought of as the "male" hormone but women also have testosterone, even though in much lower quantities than men and low testosterone in women may be one of the reasons women experience a loss in libido.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

There are a number of causes of low testosterone in women. As women age, they produce less sexual hormones, including testosterone, low levels of other sexual hormones which interact with testosterone and birth control pills reduce the level of this hormone in the body. The main symptom is a lack or lower sexual desire. Reduced muscle strength and physical endurance also can signal low testosterone although this also naturally happens as women age. Other symptoms can include painful sexual intercourse caused by vaginal dryness and vasomotor functions, which can appear as incontinence.

A Possible New Treatment

Some doctors already prescribe low levels of testosterone for women. According to the article, "Sex Drug Viagra Turns 10: Women Still Waiting" on U.S. News, Stephen Simes, president and CEO of BioSante Pharmaceuticals, in 2006, 1.4 million women were prescribed testosterone off-label. BioSante Pharmaceuticals is currently conducting Phase III trials on LibiGel, testosterone gel for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction in menopausal women. They expect to submit an application to the FDA for the drug in 2012. Testosterone creams for women, however, have been denied by the FDA in the past.

Research on the Benefits of Testosterone

LifeExtension Magazine reported on the benefits of this type of therapy for women. Dr. Susan Davis, a researcher at the Jean Hailes Foundation in Australia, has been studying the effect of testosterone in women and, according to her research, has found that this type of treatment improves sexual drive, arousal and frequency of sexual fantasies in post-menopausal women, those that have had sexual organs surgically removed and young women with low levels of the hormone, although she indicates it is controversial to treat young women with this type of therapy. Dr. Davis believes that testosterone therapy not only helps with sexual desire but can improve a woman's energy level and sense of well-being.

Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that testosterone therapy in women resulted in unwanted hair growth and possibly an increased risk of breast cancer [2008]. Women in the study were given either one of two different doses of testosterone or a placebo. Those receiving the testosterone showed an increase of sexual desire. Most of the women who experienced hair growth indicated it was not a reason to stop taking the medication. Four of the women in the study developed breast cancer but researchers aren't sure if this was a result of the testosterone or if they already had the cancer but weren't aware of it or if they were at a higher risk for developing breast cancer.

Not Everyone Thinks Testosterone Therapy is Needed

Some women don't believe that this type of therapy is needed or warranted. Critics believe that because low testosterone in women is a naturally occurring event, it is important to accept a lower libido as a right, without trying to find ways to solve something that is a normal process.

What do you think?


"BioSante Pharmaceuticals Completes Enrollment in LibiGel ® Phase III Safety Study," 2011, June 1, Staff Writer,

"Sex Drug Viagra Turns 10: Women Still Waiting," 2008, Mar 27, Lindsay Lyon, U.S. News and World Report

"Testosterone Patch Restores Libido in Postmenopausal Women," 2008, Nov 5, Serena Gordon, HealthDay

"Why Aging Women Need Testosterone," 2004, April, Edward R. Rosick, DO, MPH, MS, Life Extension Magazine

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.