Testosterone in women - why is it important and why would levels drop?

Hi all

I have been puzzling over my latest set of test results - I know my adrenals are struggling (though I still feel they are better than when I started on this circus trip!) and my DHEA is low. But is that why my testosterone is low too? And what does that do/how does that effect women? Is it low because adrenals are low? Does taking DHEA and pregnelone fix adrenals and testosterone output??

I have been trying to find some info on this on the internet but seem to end up looking at articles re polycystic ovary syndrome in women.I don't have PCOS so I am getting a bit confused as to what the problem is and how to fix it.

My results were:

TSH 0.07 (0.3 to 4.5)

T3 free 3.64 (2.1 to 4.2)

T4 free 0.86 (0.7 to 1.8)

Testosterone 85 (150 to 600) this result doesn’t look good at all – is it linked to adrenals??

DHEA 41 (65 to 280) doesn’t look great either

Urine tests

T3 1770 (800 to 2500)

T4 2120 (550 to 3160) looks high here but is low in blood tests – why would that be?

Total 17 OH steroids 2.81 (3.17 to 8.63) I don’t know what this is either but doesn’t look good

Many thanks


13 Replies

  • PCOS is high testosterone. T is important, it has many functions including libido, muscle/body composition and good mental well being.

    Can't help you with why - mines been low on and off, only recently improved since 2009.

    Also are you sure that's deffo the women's range for T as well?



    Someone better clued up than me will probably have the answer.

  • Hi Hayface

    Thank you so much for those links.

    I am amazed!

    I have some of the symptoms listed on there but always thought that is was because of low thyroid and that I hadn't got onto the right level of treatment. Particularly the stuff around fatigue, lack of energy and lack of motivation rang true with me. I'm just amazed low testost. isnt talked about more- or maybe I've missed it!!??

    How did you manage to get your levels to improve?


  • Hi lizanne. I was tested last year. My results:

    pregnenolone: 36 ng/dL (<151)

    cortisol: 7.9 ug/dL (6.2 - 19.4)

    DHEA 174 ng/dL (31 - 704)

    testosterone 23 ng/dL (8 - 48)

    progesterone 0.2 ng/mL (0.2 - 27)

    I was put on DHEA, pregenenolone and transdermal testosterone and progesterone as well as other tablets (nutritional supplements) which I can't remember right now. I didn't see any improvements! I was on the hormones for a couple of months and the supplements for quite a while (maybe three to six months, maybe longer). I think my thyroid was still being undertreated and the only minor improvement I've seen since I was diagnosed has come after my dose of thyroxine was raised.

    Sorry - I realise that may not be very helpful! But I don't know much about this stuff either so I thought I'd get in on this conversation and see what I could find out.

    I was under the impression that testosterone would decline with age (I'm 44) like other hormones do.

    Do you mind if I ask how you came to be tested (feel free to PM me if you don't want to post details)? I was not living here when I was tested and I"m always on the lookout for doctors who are amenable to treating hormones. I feel like it could be helpful to look at this after my thyroid has been treated properly.

  • HI there

    Your results don't look too bad in that at least you in range in some of those hormones albeit low in range. Maybe the hormones and supplements you took did make some difference? However I understand what you mean - unless you can actually see a physical improvement in yourself or feel it then who knows??

    What are your main symptoms?

    I agree with you that perhaps getting onto the right level of thyroid treatment (I'm not there yet) is the key to improvement all round re hormones.

    And yes - my understanding is that virtually all our hormones (progesterone/testosterone/DHEA etc) all decline with age - just a question of the rate of the decline and is it too fast/too soon for your age. My DHEA and Testosterone are below even the bottom of the range so not great for my age or any age I think!!

    Re getting tested - I see a private GP which is expensive and I have to pay for the tests which is also expensive - but there is no way my NHS GP would be willing to do this fully battery of tests and the 1 endo I saw years ago refused to listen and thought there was nothing wrong with me - he did even less testing.

    From my limited experience the only way to get a comprehensive set of tests done is via a private doctor but then if you read the blog I have just started you will see I have not had a good experience. I think there are lots of people on this forum who have actually found really good endos who are open minded and willing to test broadly to see where the patient is at in terms of hormones.

  • Testosterone is really important in women as well as men and if you are healthy otherwise but have Testosterone deficiency it can make you feel ill a bit like Hypothyroid, muscle weakness, fatigue, lethargy and hair loss/thinning and absolutely no libido at all. If you are able to replace the low Testosterone it can be life changing but it is also like Thyroid medication/hormone, very very difficult to get if you are female unless you fit the criteria and that is having had a total Hysterectomy or an unusually early (say in your twenties) menopause. If you have neither of these, in this country, you can go and jump!!! In America it seems they are more open and you can get Testosterone Cream if your levels are low. It's another of those hormones (a steroid) that has been abused over the years by body builders and the like and it's thanks to them that people who really need it don't get it, just like Natural Thyroid Extract. Here is a useful info link


  • Hi Phoebs

    Many thanks for that info and very interesting link. I haven't had early menopause or a hysterectomy but I have had adrenal fatigue linked to my hypo and that is why my doctor says my testost and dhea. are so low. It also explains my exhaustion and brain fog!

    See my post below as well as that talks about main symptoms I have had.

    It is so exhausting trying to figure all this out, but it seems all roads lead back to getting my adrenals fixed and getting the right levels of T3 and T4. All of which I have struggled with for 7 years. It would be so much easier just to take testosterone patches etc but I know that isn't an option!!

  • Main symptom: EXHAUSTION. :-) (Me and everyone else here I guess.) Also weight gain, zero libido, brain fog, muscle weakness and probably a bunch of other symptoms I can't remember. Doctor asked about tearfulness but I don't remember if I was weepy or not. That is more a time-of-month thing for me.

    Yes, my testing was expensive too and I just didn't feel any different after treatment. I'm still in touch with the doctor and I get some help now and again when I need it but I'd avoid having that battery of tests again for a while if I can.

    Sorry your (expensive) experience wasn't good. That is the most heartbreaking, as you save up your hopes for the private doctor and when you don't feel better it's a real letdown.

  • I hear you on that one!!

    My personal theory on all this is that even though hypothyroidism brings a very broad range of symptoms and problems - there always seems to be one of two health problems that are really hard to resolve for individuals. For some it's weight, others its depression, others joint pain, some people have brain fo or, bad hair loss etc.

    I seem to be in the last category. I don't struggle with weight as I really work hard to control that but my hair and eyebrows have never recovered despite being on various treatments at various dosages over the past 7 years. I have spent a lot of hard earned money on tests, doctors, vitamins etc to try and resolve this. I really believe that no matter what your health issue is - if it started with hypothyroidism then you must be able to resolve it with the right treatment.

    Re the low testosterone - I think that is all linked back to weak adrenals as that is where the testosterone is partly produced (if I am correct?).

    My main symptoms from low testosterone are exhaustion, brain fog, muscle weakness and lack of motivation/drive. I really have lost my get up and go!

    I read an article yesterday re testosterone in women and while a lot of articles talk about bout libido etc- one article talked about how testost. gives you your drive, your energy to get up and get on with life. So I need to get that back!!

  • Yes, I've heard that too and I wonder if this is why we're always getting fobbed off by doctors after our 30s/40s, because as our testosterone declines we're susceptible to all kinds of mental and emotional wet-blanketness (confusion, lack of focus, lack of drive) in addition to physical problems and this is what they term 'aging' 'menopause' etc. In other words they don't see it as a physical problem but a middle aged woman problem.

    I have exactly the same problem - lack of drive - but I was depressed for many years and I'm sort of used to it! I felt remarkably better for a while about five years ago - my theory is that I was beginning to go hyper in the process of becoming hypo - and was full of energy, busy, getting up early, etc. This was after a lot of therapy and resolving a lot of emotional issues and actually learning how to not get stuck in depression, and I thought I was experiencing that emotional resolution, but I think there was a physical dimension as well.

  • How fair is this. Intrinsa is the only female testosterone patch available in this country. Men have TEN different kinds, Gel, Cream, Patches, Injections and Implants. Intrinsa has just been withdrawn (October 12) "due to commercial reasons", well, if it's not being prescribed then of course it's not profitable. They made it pretty impossible to get anyway only being used for the two conditions mentioned above so what do they expect. Here we go again, some women will need this to get their lives back but no one is interested, it really is shameful!

  • I agree. Like my response to punctured below (for some reasons my replies are out of sync?!) I think fixing thyroid should help adrenals and therefore testosterone etc.

    I am sure I read somewhere that once your thyroid is out of whack it has a knock on effect on all the other hormones too and it certainly seems to be the case!

  • Hi Phoebs

    I have just read your blog, you can buy Andro-feme 1% Testosterone cream for women, it's a bit pricey and it takes a few weeks to come as it's from Australia, but it works! x

    Edited by Admin under Guidelines

  • I hope you are feeling better now and can work towards getting better. It sounds like you have been through a lot and have done a lot to help yourself.

    I am hoping with the right balance of T3 and T4 I will eventually crack the problem and once my thyroid is good all other hormones will start to correct. I am sure there is a physical dimension to depression - it may be thyroid of lack of vit b12 or vit D etc and it surely wouldn't do any harm to get these tested and supplement if necessary.

    Very best wishes

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