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Thursday, November 9, 2006

Part 8: Levels of SHBG

As I discussed in Part 7, testosterone levels can play a major part in a woman’s sexual desire. Ways to supplement low levels were covered. But, how does it get low in the first place?

One of the most common ways for low testosterone to develop is when the level of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) is high. There are many aspects to the hormones that can impact sexuality, but SHBG is a stand-out. (Frustatingly, many endocrinologists have shied away from looking for remedies for low sexual desire based on hormonal levels.)

SHBG “floats” in the bloodstream and combines with free testosterone. This makes the testosterone “bound” or not free. When it’s bound, it cannot affect a woman’s libido. It’s rendered neutral.

That’s why it’s important to know the free testosterone level of a woman. But, getting an accurate measurement of free testosterone can be difficult to do because female levels are often quite low and become virtually unmeasureable. Equilibrium dialysis of blood is the optimal measurement of free testosterone.

If that test is unavailable, there is another way to arrive at a reasonable assessment of free testosterone: Have blood tests done for total testosterone and for SHBG. Then plug those numbers into the Free and Bioavailable Testosterone Calculator here.

Optimal levels for sexual functioning should be in the upper two tertiles of the “normal” range. That means that the lowest one-third of “normal” should be considered low. This is due to the fact that when labs derive their values for “normal,” women with low sexual desire have been included. Sexual researchers have therefore determined that the upper two-thirds of the “normal” range from labs should be the target since those are women with adequate sexual desire.

While not all sex researchers agree, there is a growing contingent that suspects use of hormonal approaches to birth control as a cause of elevated SHBG levels. If you or your mate is having low sexual desire and is on a hormonal birth control (pill, patch, shot or ring), consider going off of this method in order to restore sexual desire.

Related Topics: Halting Oral Contraceptives: Effects Linger, Less Sexual Desire After the Pill?

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Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 1:33 pm

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