What can affect a woman's testosterone levels?

Jan L. Shifren, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology
Testosterone production peaks in a woman's 20s and gradually declines after that. Although menopause per se does not cause low testosterone levels, by menopause, it registers at just about half of what it was at its peak due to aging. The hormone doesn't disappear completely, however. The ovaries manufacture it throughout life, even though they stop producing estrogen at menopause. But if a woman's ovaries are removed (which sometimes occurs in combination with a hysterectomy), her testosterone levels drop, although the adrenal glands continue to make hormones similar to testosterone. The same decline can occur after certain forms of chemotherapy and with certain medications.

Taking oral estrogen can also diminish a woman's active or “free” testosterone levels, because her body responds to the increased amount of estrogen by boosting its production of a certain protein known as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). This protein binds to testosterone, so the testosterone then is not free to be used by other cells in the body.

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