Everyone has testosterone. The hormone is most associated with males, but testosterone in women is normal. They need it for their bodies to function properly. Like men, some women have more testosterone than others. And like men, some choose to supplement testosterone if they don’t have enough or do something to balance their hormones if their bodies have too much testosterone.
What should you know about testosterone in women’s bodies?
Testosterone gets a bad rap in many cases. People think it’s associated with aggressiveness or rage, but this isn’t true. It’s associated with masculinity, but aggressive behavior is only linked to testosterone when someone has an unnaturally large amount of it. This occurs when someone abuses testosterone supplements.
Healthy levels of testosterone play a role in the development of male sex organs, bone and muscle strength, sex drive, and the appearance of facial hair and other male characteristics. However, testosterone levels tend to fluctuate throughout a person’s life.
When males have too little testosterone they lack many of the standard male characteristics. When females have too much testosterone they develop some of the male characteristics associated with the hormone. Additionally, testosterone plays a role in the female body and affects:
Testosterone and estrogen (a female sex hormone) are vital for reproductive health. There is also evidence that balanced hormones affect mood and cognitive function in women.
Everyone has testosterone and the hormone plays an important role in development during puberty. Although we most often associate testosterone with adolescent boys and the changes that occur in their bodies during puberty, testosterone also affects the development of girls. Both boys and girls experience a surge of testosterone and puberty during adolescence that lasts into young adulthood.
These hormones support the development of secondary sex characteristics in females including breast development and vocal changes.
In most cases, female bodies don’t respond to testosterone in the same way male bodies do. In most cases, their testosterone is converted to estrogen. If this doesn’t occur or if their body produces too much testosterone and they aren’t able to convert it quickly enough, they might develop male characteristics like facial hair.
Male and female bodies continue to produce testosterone as they age, but in both cases, the production decreases as they age.
Despite both male and female bodies producing testosterone, they produce different amounts of the hormone. Women have higher levels of estrogen and men have higher levels of testosterone. Women’s bodies make about 1/10th to 1/20th of the testosterone found in male bodies.
There is also a difference in where testosterone is produced in the male and female bodies. In men, testosterone is produced in the testes. In women, the ovaries, adrenal glands, and skin and fat cells produce testosterone.
Testosterone is most often associated with male bodies, but like all hormones, it’s important for both men and women. Hormonal balance is an indication of good health. Testosterone provides a variety of benefits for both men and women.
When testosterone levels are too high in men, it’s rarely a problem when it occurs naturally. In women, too high testosterone levels can wreak havoc. Women with elevated testosterone levels develop acne, facial hair, and other traditionally male characteristics. Elevated testosterone levels are common among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Testosterone is important in women’s bodies because it supports:
What happens if a woman’s body doesn’t produce enough testosterone?
Unbalanced hormones harm health. The good news is researchers believe testosterone replacement therapy could be as effective for women as it is for men for controlling testosterone levels.
Testosterone plays a role in cardiovascular health. Too little testosterone increases the risk of a variety of heart health issues. There is evidence that supplementing testosterone levels boosts healthy red blood cell production and reduces your risk of stroke and heart disease. It isn’t proven yet that these benefits apply to women in the same way as they do to men.
Testosterone is linked to increased muscle mass in both women and men. Having more lean muscle mass makes controlling your weight easier. It also increases energy levels. Testosterone replacement therapy ensures your body is as healthy and strong as possible.
Low testosterone levels increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. There is evidence that testosterone replacement therapy improves bone mineral density, especially in the spine and hips. Women taking testosterone to transition from female to male show naturally improved bone density.
There is speculation that healthy testosterone levels in men have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a connection between testosterone and spatial memory, verbal memory, and processing speed. So far, this benefit applies to men, but researchers speculate it likely affects women in the same way.
One of the greatest benefits of testosterone replacement therapy is how it boosts the female libido. It does the same for men, too. Healthy testosterone levels are linked to sexual arousal and activity. Numerous studies have shown that supplementing testosterone when it is low offers an immediate positive impact on libido.
Women and men with insufficient testosterone experience irritability, fatigue, and depression. Supplementing testosterone improves mood, boosts energy, and promotes feelings of well-being. If you’re feeling off, especially as you age, it might be due to low testosterone levels. Creating balance can impact your quality of life.
Testosterone replacement therapy is a medical treatment, and like all medical treatments, it poses risks. It’s important to discuss your concerns with your doctor and consider how supplementing testosterone will affect you specifically.
In some cases, especially if you have issues with blood clotting, this is a treatment that might not be an option for you.
Other general risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy include:
If you’re concerned about testosterone levels or you want to learn more about boosting testosterone for better health, speak to your doctor.
The Ultimate Guide to At-Home Hormone Testing: What you need to know.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Testosterone — What It Does and Doesn’t Do - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 29 Aug. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/drugs-and-medications/testosterone--what-it-does-and-doesnt-do.
“Study Identifies Effective Testosterone Dose for Women.” Harvard Health, 16 Oct. 2014, www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/study-identifies-effective-testosterone-dose-for-women.
“Testosterone Therapy in Women: Does It Boost Sex Drive?” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/expert-answers/testosterone-therapy/faq-20057935.