How testosterone changed my life.
Not just for men
Despite being commonly associated with men, testosterone is key for women too. It contributes to our sex drive, energy, muscle strength, bone health, cognitive function and mood. Surprisingly, we actually produce three times as much testosterone than oestrogen during our fertile years, but during perimenopause levels can drop dramatically. Because testosterone increases dopamine and serotonin levels, there’s evidence linking low levels of the hormone to mood changes and increased risk of depression. These low levels contribute to the loss of energy and lust for life that many menopausal women experience. Loss of testosterone is particularly profound after surgical/medical menopause and premature ovarian insufficiency when levels drop by more than 50% (thebms.org.uk).
I asked my GP for testosterone a few times as although HRT (Estrodial and Utrogestan) was improving my perimenopause symptoms, I was still experiencing quite debilitating tiredness and my motivation was on the floor. Doctors are often reticent to prescribe testosterone as it’s currently not licensed for female use in the UK and, frustratingly, my GP was no different. She told me there was no research to say it works even though, confusingly, the NICE guidelines stipulate it as an effective therapy for women with low sexual desire. I was undeterred. Knowing that testosterone is routinely prescribed by many private menopause doctors, I sought advice from my go-to on all midlife medical matters, Dr Shahzadi Harper. She assured me that as well as having many benefits, testosterone is also safe where there is a legitimate deficiency (flagged up by blood tests) and when used correctly. The dose for women is very small - 0.5g - which amounts to a tiny blob the size of a pea, applied daily. Dr Harper advises rubbing the cream into the bikini line so if there are any issues with increased body hair (one of the very rare side effects) it wouldn’t be obvious.
After using testosterone cream (AndroFeme®1) for around six months I’ve found my energy levels have lifted and my mental agility is improved. My lust for life has returned (still somewhat blunted by day to day grind but so much more tolerable now that it was a year ago). I’m more focused, more decisive, better at getting things done. And I am far less emotional too, which is a relief all round. Other changes? My skin is less dry (I now get the odd spot) and my hair gets greasy more quickly. I’ve seen no change in my sex drive whatsoever. An early night and a good book remains the only thing that gets me off these days.
Not a quick fix
It’s worth noting that it can sometimes take a good few months to feel the full effects of testosterone and it’s not effective for every woman. Testosterone can be particularly beneficial for anyone who has experienced early perimenopause (I was 42 when I first started noticing symptoms). As the dose is so low, testosterone used in this way does not increase your risk of developing facial hair, voice deepening or skin changes but it is important to have regular blood monitoring to reduce the risk of any side effects occurring.
A final note
Although rarely prescribed on the NHS, after a wee bit of badgering and a letter from Dr Harper, I convinced my GP and I now get testosterone in the form of Trostan on prescription. The cost is nominal as the dose is so tiny and I have to undergo 6-monthly check ups.
Disclaimer: This is my own personal experience of adding testosterone to my hormone replacement regime and as such is purely anecdotal. What works for me wont necessarily work for you.