Australian study shows that women want solutions for their sexual dysfunction, and that hormone treatment may be helpful - My Sexual Health

Australian study shows that women want solutions for their sexual dysfunction, and that hormone treatment may be helpful

There are still very few medical treatments for women’s sexual dysfunction, and not all treatments are available in every country. One treatment that is offered by physicians in many countries is hormone therapy. Hormone therapy has been used to treat problems with sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and painful intercourse. Even so, treatments including testosterone are still not approved in many countries, despite clinical studies showing its effectiveness.


What do women expect to change with hormonal treatment, and what does this say about how they view their sexual challenges?


Dr. Ensieh Fooladi, Dr. Susan Davis, and their team at Monash University in Victoria, Australia investigated these questions in a 2014 interview-style study. They also asked women about their experiences of sexual dysfunction and how they felt it affected their relationships.

This was a small study of seventeen women, who had a face-to-face interview prior to an appointment with their endocrinologist (a doctor specializing in hormone-related conditions and diseases). The appointments were consultations regarding hormonal treatment for sexual dysfunction.

What they found

Several themes emerged from the interviews with the participants:

1) Women reported having distress because of their sexual dysfunction experiences, manifesting as low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, sadness, inadequacy, and embarrassment.

One of the participants revealed: “‘ I think it’s important for me [to be sexually active] because I still feel very young, I am only 46, and I think it was always because sex was a big part of our life. I think that for me it’s a sad realization that something I expected to happen when I was 70 has happened in my 40s.”

2) Many participants were concerned that their sexual dysfunction had or would have a negative effect on their intimate relationship, and was a major motivator for seeking medical attention.

Another woman shared: “It’s not like our marriage is in trouble because of it, but it is definitely something that we both would like to enjoy and my husband would like more of. It is important for any marriage and relationship. I guess it’s always the thought of hearing other people having regular sex and you say “what’s wrong with me?”

3) Several women in the study believed there was a relationship between their sexual problems and a "hormone deficiency".

Premenopausal women wanted to have their hormone levels checked, and postmenopausal women were interested in receiving hormone therapy. Women who made comments about their bodies referenced that they were “lacking hormones…needed to stay healthy and active”, and “when your ovaries start to decline, you have nothing to keep you going”.

4) Hormonal treatment was seen as a real solution to their problems.

Many of the women expected that taking estrogen or testosterone would increase sex drive, arousal, orgasm frequency, and would overall improve their sex life. Several participants expected to gain back the energy they felt they were lacking, and in some cases were motivated by other women who had experienced these effects following hormone treatment.


A 53-year old participant shared: “I am a young, fit, healthy, happy woman…I would like not to feel like I’m 80 years old sometimes.”


Participants who experienced painful intercourse hoped that hormone treatment would relieve these symptoms.

Treatment follow-up

Three to four months after their interview and the consultation with the endocrinologist, participants received a follow-up call to find out how they were responding to their prescribed treatments, which may have included estrogen, ospenifene (which affects estrogen receptors), tibolone (a synthetic progesterone) and testosterone. Ten of the 17 women responded.


Many positive responses were reported by the patients who received hormonal treatment including testosterone, such as mood improvements, a restored sex drive, less pain during intercourse, a reduction of menopausal symptoms, and an improved relationship with their sexual partner.


Women who received hormonal treatment without testosterone also reported benefits, if slightly milder, such as a slightly improved libido, improved lubrication, more spontaneity in their relationship, and reduced hot flashes.


Some women reported a slight or no benefit as a result of treatment.

Important to note:

Because this was a very small study, the results here may not be generalizable to all women. However, the themes that emerged in the interviews as well as the responses to treatment may be interesting to investigate in more depth, and with a larger population.

Reference article:

Fooladi E, Bell RJ, Whittaker AM and Davis SR (2014) Women’s expectations and experiences of hormone treatment for sexual dysfunction. 17(6):674-81.