Decreased androgen concentrations and diminished general and sexual well-being in women with premature ovarian failure
OBJECTIVE: To describe general and sexual well-being in women with premature ovarian failure (POF) and to investigate whether there is a relationship between androgen levels and sexual functioning. DESIGN: Women with POF and healthy volunteers with regular menstrual cycles participated. Participants completed a written questionnaire and underwent hormonal screening. The questionnaire included standardized measures: the Questionnaire for Screening Sexual Dysfunctions, the Shortened Fatigue Questionnaire, and the Symptom Check List-90. Serum hormone measurements included estradiol, total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. RESULTS: Eighty-one women with POF and 68 control women participated in the study. Compared with control women, women with POF reported more complaints of anxiety, depression, somatization, sensitivity, hostility, and psychological distress. Overall women with POF were less satisfied with their sexual life. They had fewer sexual fantasies and masturbated less frequently. Sexual contact was associated with less sexual arousal, reduced lubrication, and increased genital pain. However, the frequency of desire to have sexual contact and the frequency of actual sexual contact with the partner did not differ between women with POF and control women. Women with POF had lower levels of estradiol, total testosterone, and androstenedione. Multiple regression analysis revealed that androgen levels had only a weak influence on sexual functioning; higher total testosterone levels were associated with increased frequency of desire for sexual contact, and higher androstenedione levels were associated with elevated frequency of sexual contact. CONCLUSIONS: Women with POF have diminished general and sexual well-being and are less satisfied with their sexual lives than control women. Although women with POF had lower androgen levels, we did not find an important independent role for androgens in various aspects of sexual functioning.