Testosterone and The Female Body
When we think of sex hormones, we tend to designate them as strictly male or female, but humans are not that straightforward.
Male and female bodies both rely on many different types of hormones to not just function but thrive.
This is especially true when it comes to the hormone testosterone.
When you hear the word testosterone, you may think of big beefy muscles and a low, deep voice. While testosterone may lend to this, that’s not the case for the majority of people.
Testosterone plays an important role in the health and development of cis-women, female-bodied and AFAB people (assigned female at birth).
What is Testosterone?
First off, let’s get back to basics – what exactly is testosterone?
Without getting too elementary, testosterone is a hormone. Hormones are the messengers of our endocrine system. They are like rapid emails that send messages to your different organs to tell them what to do and when.
They don’t get enough credit, but hormones really do run the show. Much like the assistant that spends all day staying on top of emails, messages, and memos.
Testosterone belongs to the family of androgens, or male hormones. Testosterone in the female body is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, fat and skin cells. Fun fact – humans aren’t the only animals to produce testosterone, it can be found in other mammals besides as well.
Although levels of testosterone are lower in females, it is essential for their functioning.
So what exactly does testosterone do for females?
The Role of Testosterone in Females
It’s not all about big bulky muscles, we need normal testosterone levels to be our best.
Here are just some of the things testosterone is necessary for:
You may have been able to guess this one, but testosterone is one of the keys to sex drive, no matter what your biological sex is.
Testosterone is one of the hormones responsible for giving us the desire and drive to have sex.
It helps inspire our sexual fantasies, pursue partners, and gets us in the mood to get at it.
Bone health is crucial for our overall well-being, especially as we get older and more prone to things like osteoporosis.
Testosterone helps regulate bone-mineral density, as well as bones’ growth and strength. As people get older, they are more likely to experience issues related to bone health as testosterone levels decrease.
Females are more likely to develop osteoporosis than males because of the hormonal shifts they experience during and after menopause.
It’s not just sex and bones, testosterone also plays a role in your cognitive health.
One study found that postmenopausal women who had received treatment with a testosterone gel showed improvement in verbal learning and memory when compared to those who had received a placebo. Another study found changes in spatial cognition and brain activity after a single dose of testosterone.
In the same vein, testosterone also impacts mood and energy levels.
This is indicative of just how much testosterone can do for brain function.
Given that testosterone is a sex hormone, it does play a role in the health of reproductive organs, male or female.
Testosterone helps with things like sex hormone development, vaginal lubrication and arousal, and preventing vaginal atrophy.
Too much testosterone, however, can negatively impact vaginal health.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Little Testosterone?
Testosterone levels often dip after menopause which can affect a female-bodied person’s sex drive.
One common remedy for that is a testosterone patch which can be easily ordered online.
For people who are still in their reproductive years, low testosterone levels can wreak havoc on their system. They may experience ongoing fatigue and bone health issues like osteoporosis and bone loss.
Some signs you may have low estrogen levels are:
- Memory issues and difficulty focusing
- Thinning skin
- Hair loss
- Depression and mood issues
- Vaginal dryness
- Lack of motivation
- Low sex drive
What About Too Much Testosterone?
Before we answer this question, we first need to clarify that if an AFAB person is intentionally taking testosterone as a form of gender-affirming treatment, that is a separate discussion.
We’re targeting this towards female-bodied people who do not desire the effects of increased testosterone.
One of the most common issues related to excess testosterone is PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome, PCOS. PCOS, which causes elevated testosterone levels, is marked by an irregular often uncomfortable period, ovarian cysts, excess hair growth, infertility, skin problems, and miscarriage.
Other issues that can come from high testosterone levels in women include diabetes and insulin resistance, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Curious About Your Hormone Levels?
If you think your testosterone levels may be off, you can get them tested by asking your doctor or going to a functional medicine lab.
Having this information can help you make decisions about your health so that you can feel better and take control of your health.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.