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What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is one of the sex hormones produced by both men and women, although in varying amounts. Women produce testosterone from their ovaries and adrenal glands under the influence of other hormones coming from the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus (in the brain), while men produce it from their testes.
This sex hormone is known to be responsible for the development of male characteristics especially during puberty, for sperm production and sexual drive. However, it has other effects on the body that occur in both men and women such as development of bones and muscles, distribution of fat and hair pattern. Aside from these it also affects energy levels and has psychological influence in terms of mood, aggression and social dominance.
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Normal Levels of Testosterone in Women
Normally, women produce only one-seventh of the amount of testosterone men do. The amount and levels of testosterone in the body is not constant; rather, these may change constantly during the day, from one menstrual cycle to another, and from puberty to a woman’s post-menopausal stage.
Hence, normal levels of testosterone in females from birth to puberty may be less than 10 ng/dL (less than 0.35 nmol/L) and can gradually increase to 12 ng/dL (0.42 nmol/L). After this period, in their teens this level can surge with a range of 2-53 ng/dL (0.07-1.84 nmol/L).
A healthy pregnant woman can have 3-4 times more testosterone than a non-pregnant woman. The increase may be related to decreased metabolic clearance or due to fetal factors.
Around menopause testosterone levels may normally rise with a range of 10-70 ng/dL (0.35-2.43 nmol/L). This level may fall drastically to around half this amount, from 7-40 ng/dL (0.24-1.39 nmol/L).
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Changes in Testosterone Levels in Women
Increases in female testosterone levels have been known to occur especially in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Effects of increased testosterone levels are irregular menstrual periods, infertility, obesity and increase in male features.
On the other hand, decreases in testosterone levels are associated with decreased sexual desire or libido and body weakness.
Factors that can affect normal female testosterone levels are ovarian disease, intake of corticosteroids and estrogen, alcohol abuse and diseases of the pituitary gland.
Laboratory testing for normal testosterone levels in women may be done to diagnose symptoms that may be part of some disease. This may be done by doing a blood test or a saliva test, although the latter is less accurate in women.
Although a decline in testosterone level is expected in menopausal women some advocate supplementary intake of the hormone to reduce symptoms associated with its deficiency. Restoring hormonal levels to normal, as others claim, may increase sexual drive, improve mood, endurance, strength and even mental ability. Medical advice may be needed for those who seek hormone therapy.
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WebMD, “Testosterone", http://men.webmd.com/testosterone-15738
WebMD, “Normal Testosterone and Estrogen Levels in Women", http://women.webmd.com/normal-testosterone-and-estrogen-levels-in-women