Do Women Need Testosterone: Understanding Normal Testosterone Levels in Women

Testosterone is often associated with men, but it is also an essential hormone in women that affects various aspects of their health and well-being.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the significance of testosterone in women's bodies, the symptoms of low and high testosterone levels, the causes of hormonal imbalances, and potential treatments. By understanding the role of testosterone and maintaining optimal levels, women can promote their overall health and vitality.

What are Normal Testosterone Levels in Women?

While the "normal" range of testosterone levels may vary among individuals, experts generally consider healthy testosterone levels for women to be between 15 ng/dL and 85 ng/dL [1].

Although, some places have this as a little bit lower, for example according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, a typical female should have a total testosterone level ranging from 15 ng/dL to 70 ng/dL. [2] It is important to note that there are currently no conclusive guidelines for what should be considered "low" testosterone levels in females.

There is also a difference between free and total testosterone levels, free testosterone being what your body can use and total being the overall amount. Sometimes you can have higher testosterone that's being balanced out by other hormones also being at higher levels.

Female Testosterone Levels Change Over Time

Testosterone levels in women can fluctuate throughout various stages of life, including the menstrual cycle and different times of the day. While males generally have higher testosterone levels, females still require a certain amount of this hormone for optimal health and well-being. The ovaries and adrenal glands produce small amounts of testosterone in women. [3] Even what you eat through the day can impact your testosterone levels. There's even a few studies that show having a few too many onions could raise your T levels.

The Importance of Testosterone in Women

Although testosterone is often associated with male characteristics, it plays a crucial role in women's bodies as well. Testosterone contributes to the production of new blood cells, enhances libido, and influences follicle-stimulating hormones that impact reproduction. It is vital to maintain a healthy balance of testosterone to support these functions.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women

Low testosterone levels in women can manifest in various symptoms that may affect their physical and emotional well-being. It is crucial to recognize these signs and seek appropriate treatment if necessary. [4] A lot of the symptoms are the same as you'd see in low testosterone symptoms for men (with the exception of those related to female anatomy specifically.

Physical Symptoms Of Low Test Levels In Women

Sluggishness and fatigue: Women with low testosterone may experience a constant feeling of tiredness and lack of energy.

Muscle weakness: Decreased muscle strength and endurance can be a result of low testosterone levels.

Weight gain: Hormonal imbalances, including low testosterone, can contribute to weight gain, especially around the abdomen.

Irregular menstrual cycles: Low testosterone may disrupt the normal menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods.

Vaginal dryness: Insufficient testosterone levels can cause a decrease in natural lubrication in the vagina.

Loss of bone density: Low testosterone levels can contribute to a decrease in bone density, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Emotional Symptoms

Reduced sex drive: Testosterone plays a crucial role in sexual desire and satisfaction. Low testosterone levels can lead to a decreased libido.

Mood changes: Women with low testosterone may experience feelings of depression, anxiety, or irritability.

Sleep disturbances: Hormonal imbalances, including low testosterone, can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to insomnia. And ultimately disrupt hormones further.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be associated with other conditions or hormonal imbalances. A comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis.

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Low Testosterone in Women

Low testosterone levels can significantly impact a woman's sexual health, leading to a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). HSDD is characterized by a persistent lack of sexual desire that causes distress and affects a woman's quality of life. [5]

Research has shown a connection between low testosterone levels and HSDD in women. Testosterone replacement therapy may be considered as a potential treatment option for women with HSDD and low testosterone levels.

Understanding the Causes of Lower Testosterone in Females

Several factors can contribute to lower testosterone levels in females. It is essential to identify and address the underlying causes to restore hormonal balance.

Age and Menopause

As women age, testosterone levels naturally decline, similar to other hormones such as estrogen. The decrease in hormone production, especially during menopause, can result in lower testosterone levels. 

Additionally, medications used to manage menopausal symptoms, such as oral estrogen therapy, may further reduce testosterone levels [6].

Ovarian and Adrenal Gland Issues

The ovaries and adrenal glands play crucial roles in testosterone production in females. Problems with these organs can lead to lower testosterone levels. For example:

Surgical removal of the ovaries: Women who have undergone oophorectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries, will experience a significant decrease in testosterone production [7]. 

Adrenal insufficiency: When the adrenal glands do not function properly, it can affect the production of testosterone and other hormones.


Hypopituitarism refers to the impaired function of the pituitary gland, which can disrupt hormone production, including testosterone3. This condition can result from various causes, such as tumors, infections, or genetic factors. [8]

Contraceptives And Other Factors

Other factors that can contribute to lower testosterone levels in females include:

Chronic illnesses or conditions, such as thyroid disease or autoimmune disorders, may impact hormone production. [9] 

Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives or corticosteroids, can affect testosterone levels.

Lifestyle factors, including obesity and high-stress levels, may also influence testosterone production.

Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women

While low testosterone levels are more commonly discussed, high testosterone levels can also occur in women. Elevated testosterone levels can lead to various symptoms that may indicate a hormonal imbalance. [11]

Physical Symptoms

Acne: Increased testosterone levels can contribute to the development of acne, particularly on the face and body.

Excessive hair growth: High testosterone levels may cause hirsutism, which is the growth of coarse, dark hair in areas typically associated with male patterns, such as the face, chest, or back.

Male-pattern balding: Women with high testosterone levels may experience hair thinning or receding hairlines similar to male-pattern baldness.

Fluid retention: Elevated testosterone levels can cause fluid retention, leading to bloating or swelling in the extremities.

Emotional Symptoms

Mood swings: High testosterone levels in women can result in mood swings, irritability, or aggression.

Emotional instability: Hormonal imbalances, including high testosterone, may contribute to emotional instability and anxiety.

It is important to note that the symptoms mentioned above can also be indicative of other conditions. Consulting with a healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Uncovering the Causes of High Female Testosterone Levels

Several factors can contribute to higher testosterone levels in females. Understanding the underlying causes is crucial for effective management and treatment.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder characterized by enlarged ovaries with small cysts. PCOS can lead to imbalances in sex hormones, including elevated testosterone levels1. Women with PCOS often experience symptoms such as irregular periods, excessive hair growth, and acne. [11]

Adrenal Tumors

Tumors in the adrenal glands can cause excessive production of testosterone, leading to high testosterone levels1. These tumors are rare but can contribute to hormonal imbalances in some women. [12]

Medications or Supplements

Certain medications or supplements, such as anabolic steroids or DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), can increase testosterone levels in women. It is essential to discuss the potential side effects of medications and supplements with a healthcare professional before use. That said, natural testosterone boosters shouldn't cause overly high levels in women. [13]

How to Balance Testosterone Levels in Women

Maintaining optimal testosterone levels is crucial for women's health and well-being. Treatment options may vary depending on whether testosterone levels are too low or too high.

Treating Low Testosterone In Women

Hormone Replacement Therapy

For women experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be considered. HRT involves supplementing testosterone levels through various methods, such as oral medications, patches, gels, or injections. However, the use of testosterone therapy in women is still a subject of ongoing research, and its long-term effects are not yet fully understood. [14] 

Natural Options

There may be some effective phytogenic (plant coumpounds) options, with things like Ashwagandha and Panax Ginseng both having been shown to raise testosterone levels in both genders. Certain vitamins and minerals are also essential for good hormone health, some the most notable for testosterone are B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and boron.

And if you're specifically concerned about libido issues there's a lot of evidence to support Maca as an option for this, specifically in womens studies. 

Lifestyle Modifications

Certain lifestyle changes can help optimize testosterone levels in women:

Regular exercise: Engaging in physical activity can support hormone balance and overall well-being.

Balanced diet: A nutritious diet rich in essential nutrients can promote hormonal health.

Stress management: Reducing stress levels through techniques like meditation or therapy may positively impact hormone production. [15]

Treating High Testosterone In Women

The treatment approach for high testosterone levels in women focuses on addressing the underlying cause:

PCOS management: Women with PCOS can benefit from lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss and a balanced diet, to help regulate hormone levels. Medications may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms. [16]

Surgical intervention: In cases where tumors are causing high testosterone levels, surgical removal may be necessary.

It is crucial to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on individual circumstances and medical history.

Conclusion: How Much Testosterone Should Women Have?

Maintaining a healthy balance of testosterone is essential for women's overall health and well-being. While testosterone is often associated with men, women also require optimal levels of this hormone for various bodily functions.

Recognizing the symptoms of low or high testosterone levels is the first step toward addressing any hormonal imbalances. Understanding the underlying causes and seeking appropriate medical guidance can help women find effective treatment options.

By prioritizing hormonal balance, women can optimize their health, enhance their quality of life, and promote their overall well-being.


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