Byline: CHARLOTTE DOVEY
A LOSS of sex drive is a side-effect of the menopause which conventional treatments, such as HRT, fail to resolve. It's thought that testosterone, the male sex hormone, could help, but its use is controversial.
Sara Lyndley, 40, a beauty therapist, from Maidstone, Kent, has been using testosterone gel for 18 months. She lives with her partner, Victor, 56, who works for a waste paper company. Here, she tells CHARLOTTE DOVEY why she's willing to have testosterone treatment despite the lack of clear evidence that it works.
FEELING too tired for sex sounds like a cliche, but when I turned 36, I found myself using that excuse repeatedly. Whenever my partner, Victor, made an amorous move, I politely pushed him away, saying I didn't have the urge or the energy.
The healthy love life we'd had for more than four years became a distant memory.
All I wanted to do in our bedroom was sleep.
Initially, I put my constant tiredness down to general stress, but as the months passed, I developed other symptoms. My periods became irregular, the migraines I'd had since I was 23 became more frequent and I had terrible hot flushes.
Then, everything started to fit into place. Like my mother, who'd had the same symptoms when she was about 38, I realised I was going through an early menopause. After a consultation and a blood test, my local GP in Maidstone, Kent, confirmed my fears.
I was devastated. Not being able to have more children wasn't an issue as I already had two gorgeous girls - Natalie, now 19, and Sophie, 16, from a previous marriage. But the migraines and, most importantly, the lack of libido was a real worry.
Victor was very understanding, but I was only in my mid-30s. At that age, it just didn't seem right to have a non existent love life.
Talking through my options with my GP did not help. He was concerned that HRT would make my migraines worse and suggested natural remedies. So, I relied on strong painkillers for the migraines and dabbled with B-vitamins, Red Clover, Black Cohosh and Evening Primrose Oil, which are said to ease menopausal symptoms. I also tried acupuncture, but nothing had an effect.
The menopause had reduced me from a sexy, sharp, confident businesswoman to a muddled, forgetful wreck. I was so tired all the time that I'd make silly mistakes at the beauty salon, I'd cancel nights out with friends because I didn't feel up to it and my love life was in ruins.
VICTOR and I muddled on for almost two years, mainly because I thought I had no choice. But then I read about a clinic in London that specialised in testosterone treatment for women as well as men. Within a week, I was sitting in Dr Tregear's office at the Wimpole Skin Care Centre having a libido consultation at a cost of [pounds sterling]120.
She went through my medical history - discussing my diet, stress levels, alcohol intake and menstrual cycle.
Then, she told me about testosterone treatment. I'd always thought it was just the sex hormone that gave men their male characteristics such as facial hair and a deep voice. But she said it was an important sex hormone for women, too, helping female sexual desire.
During the menopause, women's levels of testosterone, together with the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone all fall. It was this that had destroyed my love life, putting everything out of sync. …