The key to boosting women’s sex drive after menopause is not necessarily men – but it may be the male hormone testosterone.
New research suggests it can be used to combat low sexual desire in women at midlife.
Women treated with testosterone also showed reduced measures of sexual concerns and sexually-associated distress.
Researchers conducted a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of testosterone treatment for women, including 46 reports on 36 trials involving 8,480 women.
Their findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, suggest testosterone can significantly improve sexual well-being for postmenopausal women.
The beneficial effects for postmenopausal women shown in our study extend beyond simply increasing the number of times a month they have sex.Professor Susan Davis
Benefits include improved sexual desire, function and pleasure, together with reduced concerns and distress about sex.
Senior author Professor Susan Davis from Monash University, Australia, said: “Our results suggest it is time to develop testosterone treatment tailored to postmenopausal women rather than treating them with higher concentrations formulated for men.
“Nearly a third of women experience low sexual desire at midlife, with associated distress, but no approved testosterone formulation or product exists for them in any country and there are no internationally-agreed guidelines for testosterone use by women.
“Considering the benefits we found for women’s sex lives and personal well-being, new guidelines and new formulations are urgently needed.”
The authors noted that non-oral formulations are preferred as their side effects appear to be restricted to small weight gain, mild acne and increased hair growth.
However the scientists acknowledge more more research on long-term effects is needed.
They say testosterone is important for female sexual health, contributing to libido and orgasm as well as helping to maintain normal metabolic function, muscle strength, cognitive function and mood.
Levels decline naturally over a woman’s lifespan, and can also drop sharply following surgical menopause.
Prof Davis said: “The beneficial effects for postmenopausal women shown in our study extend beyond simply increasing the number of times a month they have sex.
“Some women who have regular sexual encounters report dissatisfaction with their sexual function, so increasing their frequency of a positive sexual experience from never, or occasionally, to once or twice a month can improve self-image and reduce sexual concerns, and may improve overall well-being.”