Modest significant associations were observed between reproductive hormones and sexual function in women during menopause, according to research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The positive association with testosterone supports the role of androgens in female sexual function, whereas the negative association with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) supports the role of menopausal status, the researchers said.
“Endogenous sex hormones, especially testosterone, are clearly related to sexual function in midlife women, but play a modest role compared to psychosocial aspects of a woman’s life, such as her relationship with her partner and her mood,” John F. Randolph Jr., MD, of the University of Michigan Health System, told Endocrine Today.
John F. Randolph
Randolph and colleagues examined data from 3,302 women aged 42 to 52 years in the menopausal transition from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) multiethnic cohort. The participants (self-identified as white, black, Hispanic, Chinese or Japanese) all had an intact uterus and at least one ovary and were not receiving any exogenous hormones.
The investigators assessed sexual function at baseline and each of 10 follow-up visits through self-administered questionnaires. Serum testosterone, estradiol, FSH, sex hormone-binding globulin and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were measured through blood draws.
Masturbation, sexual desire and arousal were positively associated with testosterone. However, masturbation, arousal and orgasm were negatively associated with FSH. All associations were modest.
Estradiol did not show associations with any measured sexual function domain, and pain during intercourse was not associated with any hormone.
“Midlife women with concerns about their sexual function should address nonhormonal issues before considering hormone evaluation or therapy,” Randolph said.
Both physiology of sexual function in older women and options for managing sexual concerns with aging are understudied and require further research, he said.
“Healthy seniors are interested in satisfying sexual function, so the demand for better information and treatment options will grow,” Randolph said. – by Allegra Tiver
For more information:
John F. Randolph Jr., MD, can be reached at University of Michigan Health System, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: The researchers reports no relevant financial disclosures. The SWAN study was supported by the NIH, Department of Health and Human Services through the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Nursing Research and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.