Wellness in Women After 40 Years of Age: The Role of Sex Hormones and Pheromones

Dis Mon. 1998 Sep;44(9):421-546. doi: 10.1016/s0011-5029(98)90016-5.


In the past twenty years hundreds of peer-reviewed studies have provided a significant body of information to guide the health care of women in the second halves of their lives. The harmonic nature of the fertile reproductive system forms the background against which hormonal replacement therapy can be understood to best serve women. In addition, the 1986 discovery of human pheromones and the subsequent 1998 confirmation of their existence increases certain sexual options for maturing women. Not all hormonal replacement therapies and wellness regimens serve women well. Some regimens have the potential to produce disease, especially over-the-counter remedies like dehydroepiandrosterone and the formulas that contain estrogen. Some regimens profoundly improve the quality of life of many women; some women do not need or want such regimens. All sex hormones affect physiologic systems including the cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, cognitive function, sexual response, and sexual attractiveness. The 7 years before menopause have recently been revealed to be an extremely complex era. During this period, some women increase their estrogen levels to new lifetime highs; others start an unequivocal decline, and still others vary from month to month. Coupled to this variability in estrogen is an equally variable set of changes in progesterone secretion by the ovary as androgen secretion patterns also change. Many women show increases in circulating androgens while many others show deficiencies. Both the adrenal and the ovarian sources of these hormones show age-related changes that alter a woman's capacity to attract sexual attention through both her physical appearance (and condition) and her pheromonal excretions. The complex contributions to the overall health of a woman may not always be understood. Often a hysterectomy can exacerbate--rather than ameliorate--the conditions that led to the surgery. One in 2 American women is offered a hysterectomy, a rate 5 times higher than that of the European countries for which data are available. Ninety percent of hysterectomies are not related to cancer; they are elective procedures. Avoidance of elective hysterectomy helps prevent its side effects: sexual deficits, acceleration of cardiovascular and bone disease, and more rapid aging. No efficacy data exist that suggest that elective hysterectomy works better than the alternative approaches that do not induce these side effects. The health and well-being of women who have already had hysterectomies, with or without ovariectomies, can be improved by a recognition of the cascade of difficulties that must addressed. Estrogen, progesterone, and androgens all tend to be compromised by hysterectomy; all should be considered for replacement. Because hormonal regimens can be prescribed to enhance the quality of life, the review of the available research can allow the medical art to greatly benefit mature women. Not surprisingly, the emerging conclusion reveals that structurally human hormones, prescribed appropriately, almost always best serve the patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Climacteric / drug effects
  • Climacteric / physiology
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Menopause / drug effects
  • Menopause / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Progesterone / administration & dosage
  • Quality of Life


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Pheromones
  • Progesterone