You may have heard the term “andropause” – or the more common term of “male menopause – bounced around lately. But what exactly is it? Is it the same as menopause, but for men? And do all men go through it?
In this article, we’ll dive into what this mysterious andropause term means, explore the science behind it, and discuss the physical and psychological changes men may experience. We’ll also cover how you can support your partner who may be experiencing “male menopause.”
Yes and no. The idea of male menopause gained traction in the 1940s, but it has remained a topic of debate within the medical community – mainly because the term “male menopause” is a misnomer. Though it does share some similarities to the experience of menopause that women go through, the process is not the same, nor as pronounced.
Similar to how women experience a drop in the hormone levels estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause and menopause, men may experience a decline in testosterone levels. Just like estrogen and progesterone in women, testosterone is a crucial male hormone responsible for maintaining bone density, muscle mass, red blood cell production, sex drive, and overall well-being. However, the decline in testosterone that men experience is much more gradual compared to the sharp drop in hormone levels that women experience.
In addition, while women’s ovaries eventually stop producing the hormones needed to reproduce, (healthy) men’s testes never stop producing semen throughout their lives.
Unlike women, who universally experience menopause, men may or may not have a drop in testosterone levels that causes symptoms similar to those of menopause. In addition, testosterone levels may also decline due to other health issues such as being overweight or having diabetes.
Testosterone levels may begin to decline in men around age 40 – similar to the age that estrogen begins to decline in women. But, as mentioned above, this decline is slow and gradual – about 1% per year. And older men typically still have testosterone levels that fall within a normal range.
What are the symptoms of andropause?
The relationship of symptoms to low testosterone levels in men is unclear – mainly because these symptoms are similar to other symptoms of advancing age, as well as to symptoms caused by stress, poor lifestyle choices, or other underlying health issues. And some men may not have any symptoms at all.
However, some symptoms that could suggest a decline in testosterone include:
- Loss of fertility
- Decreased sexual desire, arousal
- Hot flashes or increased sweating
- Low mood or depression
- Loss of muscle mass and bone density
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Lack of motivation
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
Typically, doctors recommend testing for low testosterone levels only for men who have some of the symptoms listed above. After the initial test suggests low testosterone levels, additional testing should be done to confirm the results and suggest the best treatment plan. Treatment usually involves testosterone replacement therapy – which, though beneficial for some, comes with risks.
Here are a few ways you can support your partner who may be struggling with a dip in testosterone or other age-related changes:
Educate yourself. Take the time to learn about low testosterone levels and its effects. Understanding the condition can help you support and empathize with your partner.
Be supportive. Support your partner as they work through these new challenges. Be patient, and let them know you’re there to discuss their symptoms and concerns.
Make time for each other. Emotional connection is essential in any relationship, and it becomes even more important when dealing with hormonal imbalances. Engage in activities that promote emotional intimacy, such as spending quality time together and expressing your love and support.
Participate in activities together. Engaging in physical activities – such walking, working out, or playing sports – can not only be beneficial for your partner’s testosterone levels but also strengthen your relationship.
Encourage seeking medical advice. If your male partner is concerned about a potential drop in testosterone levels, suggest that he discuss his symptoms or health concerns with a qualified healthcare provider. In the meantime, making a few lifestyle modifications – such as increasing exercise levels, adjusting his diet, and managing stress – can help him maintain his overall health and vitality as he ages, regardless of the existence of male menopause.
FemmePharma has been helping women navigate menopause for over two decades. No matter where you are in your journey, you deserve to have knowledgeable, intimate healthcare partners to help you feel your best. Explore our other articles, podcast episodes with women’s health experts, and products to ease your transition into menopause.