Reaching midlife, between 40 and 60, could be a frightening thought for many women who begin to wonder if they have accomplished enough in their lifetime, if there is something more important and fulfilling they can focus on, or what more they want out of their lives. A midlife crisis could be brought on by physical changes such as menopause and post menopause, which is tied to a low sex drive in women. Two recent studies show testosterone and flibanserin treatments may offer hope for women who want to regain their sexual mojo in between the sheets.
The Mayo Clinic says research has shown testosterone has an impact on sex drive and serves as a remedy to other sexual problems, especially in women who have sexual dysfunction. Women’s bodies produce testosterone through the ovaries and adrenal glands. The multi-purposeful hormone boosts both libido and energy, maintains muscle mass, strengthens bones, and is also responsible in making the nipples and clitoris sensitive to sexual pleasure.
Women who begin to reach 40 are found to produce approximately half of the testosterone they did when they were in their 20s. Testosterone levels continue to decline with the onset of menopause or in women who have had their ovaries removed. To increase women’s libidos, creams, gels, patches, and pills have been designed to treat sexual dysfunction in this group of women as a form of testosterone therapy.
To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved a testosterone treatment for women. In 2010, flibanserin was first reviewed by the FDA, but the agency did not believe the treatment made a difference that was significantly different from the placebo. Researchers now believe a new study proven to show significant differences between flibanserin and the placebo may possibly be the first major breakthrough treatment for menopausal women that gets approved by the FDA.
Publishing in journal Menopause, a team of researchers assessed the efficacy and safety of flibanserin, a serotonin receptor 5-HT1A agonist/serotonin receptor 5-HT2A antagonist, in postmenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). The large cohort of postmenopausal women with HSDD were assigned to receive flibanserin or a placebo for 24 weeks in the study.
Over 450 participants received a flibanserin 100 milligram dose once at bedtime while 481 took the placebo. The number of satisfying sexual events (SSEs) and Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) were calculated as a means of measuring the effects of the treatment.
The women who took flibanserin were found to experience increases in the number of SSEs and had a standard score of desire on the FSFI that was significantly better than the placebo. In regards to side effects, thirty percent of the women reported dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, and headache, but only eight percent stopped taking the drug for these reasons. The findings of this study has prompted the researchers to resubmit their proposal for this new treatment to the FDA, according to the press release.
In the second study, also published in Menopause, researchers examined the effects of testosterone therapy on women who had previously undergone a hysterectomy. The women in the study were between the ages of 21 and 60 with testosterone levels that were lower than the average for healthy young women. Undergoing any type of hysterectomy will result in a significant drop in testosterone levels. Women who also have one of both ovaries removed may have worse sexual function than women who still have one or both ovaries, despite taking estrogen, says Health24.
The findings revealed women who received the highest dose of testosterone — 25mg weekly — displayed significant improvements in their libido and other measures of sexual function, including lean body mass and muscle strength. The dose was found to raise testosterone levels to about 210 ng/dL — five to six times the normal amount. Speculation grew of the potential dangers about the high testosterone levels among the researchers of the study.
The press release reveals the researchers did not find any adverse effects in the participants. LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting glucose didn't change in women who received the testosterone dose, although HDL levels decreased but not at an alarming rate. Cardiovascular and metabolic risks still need to be thoroughly examined in future long-term clinical trials.
"Keeping hormone levels within the normal range for your gender and age is the safest approach,” said Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, in the press release. “Hormones affect many systems in the body, and it takes a large and long-term study to identify side effects.”
These new treatments may provide a light of hope for postmenopausal women with relatively low libidos.
The International Society for Sexual Medicine reports HSDD affects approximately 10 percent of women across all age groups with harmful effects upon women’s health and couples’ well-being. HSDD diagnosis requires women to express a loss of sexual interest, libido, the inability to reach an orgasm, or physical discomfort with intercourse.
For tips on how to improve your female libido, click here.
Garcia M Jr, Hanes V, Kingsberg SA et al. Efficacy and safety of flibanserin in postmenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder: results of the SNOWDROP trial. Menopause. 2013.