Hormone-Sex Drive Link Is Weak in Menopause


NEW ORLEANS — Hormone levels are weakly associated with sexual desire during the menopausal transition, while other sexual desire predictors are more important, according to an analysis of data from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation.

“This is the first really solid data to nail down the role of hormones in sexual desire,” said investigator Dr. John Randolph, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. But he cautioned that while the study found a significant association between women's sexual desire and their levels of testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), the association was small.

“It's biologically significant but probably not clinically significant—and I'm worried how this information might be misinterpreted,” he said at a press conference during the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The study found that much stronger predictors of sexual desire were satisfaction with an existing relationship, availability of a partner, and ethnicity.

The multicenter, multiethnic study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, included 3,302 women who were still menstruating at baseline, and followed them with annual serum hormone measurements and sexual desire questionnaires. The aim was to determine the role of hormone levels and their fluctuations over time in changing sexual desire over the menopausal transition. The hormones measured were testosterone, estradiol, FSH, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), sex hormone-binding globulin, and the free hormone indices FEI and FTI.

The data used were from 3,290 women who had at least one and up to six annual serum hormone measurements and sexual desire questionnaires. Testosterone was positively related and FSH was negatively related to sexual desire, Dr. Randolph reported. There was no association observed with estradiol, DHEA, sex hormone-binding globulin, or the free hormone indices FEI and FTI.

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