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ORIGINAL RESEARCH—COUPLES' SEXUAL DYSFUNCTIONS: The Effects of Treating Male Hypogonadism on Couples’ Sexual Desire and Function


Helen Conaglen, PhD, The Psychology Centre, PO Box 4423, Hamilton East, Hamilton 3247, New Zealand. Tel: (64) 7-834-1520; Fax: (64) 7-834-1519; E-mail:


Introduction.  Hypogonadism is a common endocrine condition characterized by low levels of testosterone (T) and marked by numerous symptoms, one of which is low sexual desire. Studies comparing T delivery systems have suggested that hypogonadal men's partners may be at risk from exposure to T gels. Little other mention is found of the impact of hypogonadism and its treatment on a man's partner and the couple's sexual function.

Aim.  To assess sexual desire and sexual function in hypogonadal men and their woman partners before and after treatment with T replacement therapy.

Methods.  Twenty-one hypogonadal men and 18 partners were recruited from a tertiary endocrine clinic, and were compared with a control group of 20 eugonadal age-matched men and their partners. All men had baseline blood tests to confirm their status as hypogonadal or eugonadal, and hypogonadal men repeated tests at 3-month intervals. All participants completed the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI) and sexual function questionnaires at baseline and at 3-month intervals until the hypogonadal men attained normal T levels.

Main Outcome Measures.  Pre- and post-treatment SDI and sexual function questionnaires were compared once T normalization was achieved. Between- and within-group comparisons were carried out.

Results.  Pretreatment hypogonadal men recorded lower levels of sexual desire and function than controls, but significantly improved once hypogonadism was corrected. Eugonadal controls recorded no significant changes in either sexual desire or function during the study. Partners of the hypogonadal men reported no changes on the SDI, but significant improvements in sexual function as their partners recovered.

Conclusion.  SDI and sexual function measures reflect sexual changes that accompany rising serum T levels during correction of male hypogonadism. Women partners reported more satisfaction, less pain, and improved sexual function following the men's treatment. Treatments affecting one partner potentially have important effects on the other. Conaglen JV, and Conaglen HM. The effects of treating male hypogonadism on couples’ sexual desire and function. J Sex Med 2009;6:456–463.