Hormones cause drastic changes as we age. As a woman’s hormonal cycle slows down, her fertility slows, her periods become irregular, and her chemical balance feels drastically off. This can be a challenging time, stressing your body both physically and emotionally.
Testosterone replacement therapy for women involves the medical administration of testosterone, which is typically seen as a male, sex hormone. Most people have heard about Testosterone therapy for men, but is it appropriate for women? TRT for women is used to address a variety of health conditions. It’s normally used in the treatment of women who have been diagnosed with lower testosterone levels, which may occur due to, a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons could include menopause, chronic health/medical conditions, which may lower testosterone levels, surgical, removal of ovaries, or even taking certain medication’s which may be endocrine disruptors.
Other factors such as age, stress levels, and lifestyle factors may also contribute to low hormone levels in women. Testosterone therapy for women is not new and has been used in women for over 80 years. In Australia and England, the use of testosterone for women has been used for more than 60 years. Testosterone therapy for women may help to alleviate some symptoms such as a reduced libido, fatigue, unexpected, weight gain, mood, changes, and more.
It should be administered under the direct supervision and guidance of an experienced healthcare professional, as there may be side effects and potential risks involved in taking any medication. Where testosterone therapy for women is considered quite effective and safe, it’s important to discuss both the benefits as well as the risks with your doctor before starting treatment.
Women produce testosterone primarily in their ovaries and, to a lesser extent, in their adrenal glands. For some women, there may be an androgen deficiency. Here's a brief overview of how testosterone is produced in women:
1. Ovaries: The ovaries are the primary and main source of testosterone for women. Within the ovaries are specialized cells called theca cells. They produce testosterone in response to the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH), which is released by the pituitary gland in the brain. Testosterone production in a woman’s ovaries is influenced by their menstrual cycle. In men, a similar pathway is used for testosterone production, just within cells in the testes.
2. Adrenal Glands: The adrenal glands are small glands located just above the kidneys and produces a small amount of testosterone in women. This is a minor source of testosterone in women, but since their levels are much lower than men, still plays a role in their hormone regulation.
3. Peripheral Tissues: Some testosterone is also produced in the peripheral tissues of women, where other hormones, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are converted into testosterone.
The testosterone levels in women will fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and decreases with age, especially post menopause. Low testosterone levels in women has been associated with various symptoms and health conditions, which is why so many women are open to having discussions about testosterone therapy with their healthcare providers.
Testosterone replacement for females can be both safe and effective when administered under the direct supervision of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Typically, women will be prescribed a gel or cream to be administered topically daily though there are other routes of administration such as injections, patches, sublingual troches and pellets. It’s generally considered safe when used only for specific medical conditions associated with low testosterone levels. Like any medication, it should not be used without a physician’s direct supervision as there can be side effects. Knowing these side effects is important, and being open and honest with your physician will help reduce any risks, which may include the following.
Women take a considerably lower dose of testosterone than men due to their natural testosterone levels being significantly lower. The average testosterone levels in women can vary depending on factors such as their genetics, age, health, time of month (menstrual cycle), and even the specific lab test being used for measurement. On average, total testosterone levels in adult women will generally range from 15 to 70 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) of blood. However, it's important to know that these are approximate averages, and individual hormone levels can vary significantly from one person to the next.
It's also important to note that testosterone levels will fluctuate during a woman’s menstrual cycle, with higher levels being recorded during the mid-follicular phase and lower levels during the luteal phase. After menopause, testosterone levels may decrease further.
If a woman is concerned about her testosterone levels or is experiencing symptoms associated with low testosterone, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and interpretation of blood-test results. Testosterone levels should be assessed in the context of an individual's overall health and medical history. It’s important for females when considering testosterone therapy to have a very thorough dialogue with their physician, including a comprehensive evaluation of both the potential risks and benefits. It’s important to make an informed decision about treatment so having an experienced physician is vital. As with TRT for men, hormone replacement therapy for women (or men) is not advised for those who are seeking it just for performance, enhancement, or other non-medical reasons.
Testosterone therapy for women may potentially provide multiple benefits when administered under the guidance of physician for specific medical conditions. Some of these benefits may include:
Improved sexual function. Testosterone therapy may increase sex drive/libido, and even enhance sexual satisfaction for women with low testosterone levels.
Improved energy and vitality. Women with low testosterone have reported experiencing fatigue and a general lack of energy. Testosterone may help alleviate these symptoms in some patients.
Improved mood. Some women have reported an improvement in their overall mood, and a reduction and irritability after starting testosterone therapy.
Increased confidence. Many female patients that work in professional business settings have stated that they feel more confident and confident especially when dealing with male counterparts after starting TRT.
Preservation of bone mineral density. Testosterone may help to maintain bone mineral density and postmenopausal women and help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. As women age, having higher testosterone levels, will help them to maintain strength and posture, because of not having weak bones and decreased muscle mass, making them less frail than some of their counterparts. When combined with strength training, it’s a great way to maintain quality of life as one ages.
Increase muscle strength and lean body mass. Testosterone can contribute to increased muscle strength and preserving lean body mass. Deterioration of muscle as one ages is a condition that will lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which will just exacerbate the muscle loss, and potentially even contribute to other health conditions down the line that may be detrimental to quality of life.
Cognitive benefits. Some studies have suggested that testosterone may have a positive effect on cognitive functioning in women.
Menopausal symptom relief. Testosterone may help to alleviate some menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, and night sweats. For women, with fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause, having a hormone panel, which would show not just testosterone, but estrogen and progesterone levels may be quite useful for your physician to determine what would most benefit you to alleviate these symptoms.
It’s extremely important to note that the benefits of testosterone should be carefully weighed out against any potential risks since side effects and any hormone replacement should be personalized based on your individual and specific medical condition and blood tests. Along with the signs and symptoms, it’s important to consider the totality involved before starting treatment with an experienced healthcare provider.
Not everyone is the same and everyone will respond differently. However, many women who have seek help through testosterone therapy have stated it to be a life changer. Unfortunately, not all physicians are experienced or comfortable in prescribing hormones so you should seek out specialist, such as an endocrinologist, and OB/GYN, or physician who specializes in hormone replacement therapy.
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