Hormonal and psycho-relational aspects of sexual function during menopausal transition and at early menopause

Rossella E. Nappi, Francesca Albani, Valentina Santamaria, Silvia Tonani, Flavia Magri, Ellis Martini, Luca Chiovato, Franco Polatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The aim of the present observational, cross-sectional study was to examine the effects of hormonal and psycho-relational variables on sexual function during menopausal transition and at early postmenopause in women with hot flushes. Study design: The sample comprised 138 women referred to a clinic for the treatment of hot flushes. They were categorised according to their stage of menopausal transition using the STRAW criteria: early menopausal transition (EMT) if their menstrual cycle was 7 or more days different from normal; late perimenopause (LMT) if they had experienced 60 days or more of amenorrhoea; and early postmenopause (EPM) if their amenorrhoea had lasted for at least 12 months but less than 4 years. Main outcome measures: Sexual function was measured by using the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), while anxiety (state and trait), depression, eating disorder and marital adjustment were evaluated by validated self-report questionnaires. Levels of free testosterone (FT), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and estradiol (E2) were also measured. Results: Overall sexual function varied significantly with stage of menopause, with total FSFI score less in EPM than in EMT (p = .009). A similar pattern was evident on FSFI sub-scales for sexual desire (p = .02), arousal (p = .01) orgasm (p = .01) and also pain (p = .02), but not for lubrication and satisfaction. Ratings for anxiety, depression and eating disorder did not differ across the menopausal sub-groups, and neither did ratings of marital adjustment. Both FT (p = .01) and DHEAS (p = .03) levels were slightly reduced at EPM in comparison with EMT, as were E2 levels (p = .001 EMT versus LMT; p = .0001 LMT versus EPM). In multiple regression analyses, plasma FT level was the only factor to predict FSFI full score (β = .48; p = 0.004) in women at EMT, while in women at LMT the depression score was the only factor to do so (β = -.62; p = 0.0001). The best model predicting FSFI full score at EPM included levels of DHEAS and E2 levels and state anxiety score. Conclusions: Hormonal and some psychological variables are relevant to sexual function in symptomatic women during menopausal transition and at early menopause but their role differs with the specific stage of reproductive ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • Androgens
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Menopausal transition
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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