Though testosterone is the dominant male hormone, women have some as well. Women who have high levels of testosterone, however, often have difficulty getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy full-term. Complications may also arise during pregnancy if you have high testosterone levels. If you suspect you have a high level of testosterone, consult an endocrinologist for diagnosis and treatment.
One of the most common causes of high testosterone levels in women in polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS. Women with PCOS have high androgen, or male hormone levels, which leads to irregular ovulation, insulin resistance, excessive hairiness on the face, back and thighs, increased acne and fat accumulation around the waist. Because PCOS interferes with ovulation, this disorder is one of the most common causes of infertility, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Many women with high androgen levels don't ovulate. If you don't produce a mature egg and ovulate, you can't get pregnant. Medications to lower testosterone, such as certain birth control pills or medications such as metformin, which improves insulin resistance, the cause of many PCOS symptoms, may induce ovulation. You may need more potent fertility medications such as Clomid or injectable medications called gonadotropins. A small Croatian study published in the June 2004 issue of "Diabetologia Croatica" of women with elevated testosterone levels showed they had a higher percentage of abnormal LH to FSH ratio, often associated with PCOS, an increase in cysts on the ovary and an increased risk of septate uterus, an abnormal division of the uterus. All these factors make getting pregnant difficult.
Women with high testosterone levels also have a higher risk of miscarriage once they do get pregnant. Among women with recurrent miscarriage, 14.6 percent had high androgen levels, a British study published in the December 2000 issue of "BJOG." Researchers theorized that women with PCOS or other disorders associated with abnormal egg development might not develop a normal, mature egg or might not have enough estrogen to maintain the proper implantation of the embryo. Researchers from the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals also found high androgen levels in 11 percent of women with recurrent miscarriage, according to a February 2008 article published in "Human Reproduction."
Having high testosterone levels during pregnancy may increase your risk of having a low-birthweight baby, according to a Norwegian study reported in the August 2006 issue of the "European Journal of Endocrinology." Women with PCOS also have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension, which can lead to preeclampsia, a potentially serious condition that can cause preterm delivery, maternal seizure or death of the fetus or mother.
Is This an Emergency?
- National Institutes of Health: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- "European Journal of Endocrinology"; Maternal Testosterone Levels During Pregnancy are Associated with Offspring Size at Birth; S. Carlsen, et al.; August 2006
- "Diabetologia Croatica"; Effect Increased Testosterone Level on Women's Fertility; Z. Seranda, et al.; June 2004
- "Human Reproduction"; Does Free Androgen Index Predict Subsequent Pregnancy Outcome in Women with Recurrent Miscarriage?; K.A. Cocksedge, et al.; February 2008
- "BJOG"; Endocrinological and Endometrial Factors In Recurrent Miscarriage; T. Li, et al. December 2000