While men aren’t the only people who produce testosterone, the hormone’s role in female health has remained a subject of controversy — especially when it comes to testosterone treatments for postmenopausal women.
Now a new study suggests that sexual health and pleasure is the real reason for female testosterone.
Some doctors prescribe testosterone for their older female patients suffering from depression, or to improve their bone mineral density, body composition or muscle strength. (Women’s natural testosterone decreases with age, and drops sharply after menopause-inducing procedures like hysterectomies.)
However, no testosterone treatment has been standardized specifically for postmenopausal women.
A new study out of Monash University in Australia took a fresh look at the data about the health effects of testosterone treatments after menopause.
The researchers reviewed 46 reports and 36 controlled trials of 8,480 participants, and they found plenty of reasons to support testosterone treatments for postmenopausal women who suffer from depressed sex drives.
“Testosterone acts directly in the brain and influences sexual functioning at a central level (sexual desire, fantasy, thoughts, etc.) and it also increases blood flow to the genitalia so women are more likely to feel sensation of arousal and orgasm,” senior author Susan Davis told Reuters.
By contrast, the researchers said they found no benefits to mental health, bone density, muscle strength or cognition.
While the women in the study had generally positive outcomes, there were some mild side effects.
Testosterone treatments administered through creams and patches that transmit the hormone through the skin resulted in slight weight gain, mild acne, and increased hair growth.
Meanwhile, oral testosterone treatments seemed to correlate with more serious outcomes — specifically, increased cholesterol levels, which can lead to blood clots and heart disease.