Low sexual desire in women: The role of reproductive hormones

Patricia Schreiner-Engel, Raul C. Schiavi, Daniel White, Anna Ghizzani

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The role of reproductive hormones in mediating sexual desire in healthy women is still unclear. Elucidation was sought in this study by comparing the hormonal milieu of two groups of subjects with markedly different levels of sexual desire. Seventeen women ages 27-39 who met DSM III-R criteria for severe, persistent, and generalized loss of desire (hypoactive sexual desire disorder, HSD), but had no other current psychological or medical problem, were compared to 13 healthy, sexually active women. All subjects and spouses were interviewed extensively to determine the women's sexual desire and responsiveness. Blood samples were drawn every 3 to 4 days for one menstrual cycle and were analyzed by RIA for testosterone, SHBG, estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, and luteinizing hormone. Results indicated that the HSD women's gonadal hormones fluctuated normally over the menstrual cycle, were within normal limits for each cycle phase, and were never significantly different from those of controls. Neither testosterone, non-SHBG bound testosterone, nor prolactin differentiated between the HSD women with the most and least severe HSD parameters (e.g., frequency of fantasy, masturbation, or female-initiated coitus), nor between women with lifelong and acquired HSD. The present findings did not provide evidence that reproductive hormones are important determinants of individual differences in the sexual desire of these eugonadal Women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1989


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