Steroids in Women: Understanding the Effects and Risks

top female bodybuilders 1

The use of steroids among women has become a significant health concern due to the prevalence of these substances in both competitive sports and the wider fitness community. Steroids, synthetic derivatives of testosterone, have been utilized for decades to enhance athletic performance and physique. However, while the conversation around steroid use often focuses on men, it is essential to understand the unique implications of these substances for women. The physiological differences between men and women mean that steroid use can lead to a distinct set of health risks and side effects for female users.

Steroid use in women can lead to a range of adverse health impacts. These effects can be both physical, such as changes in body composition and appearance, and psychological. Managing these effects often requires medical intervention and a thorough understanding of the impact that these substances can have on a woman’s body. Furthermore, the legality and regulation of steroid use vary widely, with many countries enforcing strict laws to control their administration and prevent misuse.

Healthcare professionals and lawmakers strive to balance the potential therapeutic applications of steroids in women against the risks associated with non-medical use. While steroids may have legitimate uses in treating certain medical conditions, the line between such use and misuse can sometimes become blurred.

Quick Summary

  • Steroid use in women can lead to unique health risks and side effects.
  • Effective management of steroid-related adverse effects requires medical oversight.
  • Regulations aim to differentiate between medical use of steroids and misuse.

Understanding Steroids

Steroids in Women

Steroids have diverse medical and performance implications, particularly among women, involving a spectrum of compounds from anabolic steroids to corticosteroids. Their uses, mechanisms of action, and various types inform their impact on health.

History and Classification

Steroids have been synthesized since the 1930s, expanding the range of therapeutic options and heralding a new age of pharmacology. They can be broadly classified into two main groups: anabolic steroids and corticosteroidsAnabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone, testosterone, designed to promote muscle growth (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects). Corticosteroids, on the other hand, are mimicries of the cortisol hormone, which the adrenal glands produce, and are typically used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant properties.

Types of Steroids

  • Anabolic Steroids:
    • Oxandrolone
    • Nandrolone
    • Stanozolol
    • Androstenedione
  • Corticosteroids:
    • Prednisone
    • Hydrocortisone
    • Dexamethasone
    • Betamethasone

Anabolic steroids are often used illegally to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass. In contrast, corticosteroids are prescribed for conditions like asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Mechanisms of Action

Anabolic steroids function by activating the body’s androgen receptors, leading to increased protein synthesis within cells, resulting in a buildup of cellular tissue, especially in muscles. They also have the effect of increasing red blood cell production and bone density. Their usage is often associated with increased muscle recovery rates following exercise, a critical factor for women in strength training.

Corticosteroids exert their effects by diminishing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. They do so by inhibiting phospholipase A2, an enzyme essential for the biosynthesis of potent mediators of inflammation such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes.

An understanding of the various types of steroids and their mechanisms is pivotal for comprehending their roles in therapeutic treatments and their potential abuse for performance enhancement.


Steroids in Women

anavar for women 800x445 1 1

Anabolic steroid use in women is a significant topic due to its implications on health and sports performance. This section examines the reasons behind steroid use among women, its prevalence in female bodybuilding, and the issue of steroids in female athletes.

Reasons for Usage

Women may opt for anabolic steroids for several reasons, with a primary one being to enhance muscle mass and strength. Steroid use can also be associated with the desire to reduce body fat and recover faster from injuries.

Prevalence Among Female Bodybuilders

In the realm of female bodybuilding, the use of anabolic steroids is a contentious issue. Surveys and studies have shown that a portion of female bodybuilders admits to using these substances despite the potential for side effects.

Steroids in Female Athletes

Female athletes have been found to use steroids not only for performance enhancement but also for injury recovery purposes. The detection of steroids in female athletes has led to high-profile bans and legal consequences in various sports.


Administration and Dosages

body fat percentage 1

The administration of steroids in women requires careful consideration of the method of intake and the specific dosages used, taking into account the recommended cycles specific to females.

Oral Intake vs. Injection

Oral Intake:

  • Tablets are a common form of steroid administration.
  • Anavar (Oxandrolone) and Winstrol (Stanozolol) are frequently utilized oral steroids with established dosages for women.


  • An alternative to oral intake that offers a different absorption pattern.
  • Primobolan (Methenolone acetate) is a preferred injectable steroid with a safe track record in females.

Common Steroid Cycles

  • Anavar: Typically, women follow cycles of 6-8 weeks.
  • Primobolan: Often used in 6-week cycles.
  • Winstrol and Anadrol: Less common due to potential side effects, but when used, shorter cycles are recommended.

Dosage Considerations

  • Dosages must be tailored to individual goals, tolerances, and medical history.
  • Anavar: Initial dosages often range from 5-10mg per day.
  • Primobolan: Dosages tend to start lower, around 25-50mg per week.

Health Impacts and Side Effects

metformin side effects 1 1

Steroids have a complex array of health impacts on women, ranging from potential positive effects to a myriad of side effects that are psychological and physical in nature.

Positive Effects on Health

In some medical scenarios, steroids are prescribed to women to enhance muscle strength and treat specific health conditions. Health Benefits:

  • Aiding in muscle development.
  • Increase in red blood cell production, which can improve anemia and overall oxygenation of the body.

Psychological Side Effects

Steroidal use in women can lead to significant psychological changes. Key Psychological Side Effects:

  • Mood swings, increased risk of depression, and heightened feelings of anxiety.
  • Potential for developing a psychological dependence to steroids, resulting in the difficulty of cessation.

Physical Side Effects

The spectrum of physical side effects from steroid use can adversely affect a woman’s overall health. Major Physical Side Effects:

Skin changes:

  • Acne
  • Oily skin

Weight and Metabolism:

  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Potential to develop high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels

Skeletal Health:

  • Increased risk of osteoporosis


  • Growth of facial hair
  • deep voice and other male secondary sexual characteristics

Other Complications:

  • Higher likelihood of certain infections due to immune system suppression

Managing Adverse Effects

virallization 1

When women use steroids, they may experience a range of adverse effects that necessitate effective management strategies. These strategies include seeking medical supervision for treatment and undertaking post-cycle therapy to mitigate the risks and control the negative symptoms experienced.

Medical Supervision and Treatment

Medical supervision is essential for women who experience adverse effects from steroid use. Physicians can provide treatment protocols tailored to the individual’s specific symptoms and health status. For instance, if a patient is experiencing high blood pressure, a physician may prescribe antihypertensive medications. In cases of mood swings or depression, appropriate antidepressants and counseling may be recommended.

  • Libido changes may require hormone replacement therapy or adjustments in steroid usage.
  • Genital changes, like the enlargement of the clitoris or other androgenic effects, should be closely monitored, and dosages may be adjusted.
  • Women who experience voice deepening or breast size reduction have limited options for reversal, highlighting the importance of preventive measures under medical guidance.

Post-Cycle Therapy (PCT)

Post-Cycle Therapy is an integral part of the steroid use protocol, intended to restore the body’s natural hormone balance and alleviate the adverse effects of steroids.

  • Hormonal Imbalances: A well-structured PCT plan may include medications such as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) to help control hormonal levels.
  • Physical Changes: To address issues like loss of muscle gains or increased fat, PCT might encompass a combination of nutrition, exercise, and other supportive supplements.

PCT aims to limit long-term damage and assist in recovery from steroid-related side effects. It is crucial for women to follow a PCT protocol designed by a healthcare professional to ensure effectiveness and safety.

Regulation and Control

Image of a woman lifting a barbell pexels 1024x683 1 1

The regulatory framework around the use of steroids in women involves strict anti-doping measures and encompasses various legal and ethical considerations, aiming to ensure fair competition and athlete health.

Anti-Doping Measures

Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) have established rigorous protocols for drug testing to detect the presence of banned substances, including anabolic steroids. These measures involve both in-competition and out-of-competition testing, which athletes are subject to without prior notice. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains a Prohibited List, which is updated annually, outlining the substances that athletes are banned from using.

  • Drug Testing Protocols:
    • In-Competition: Testing is conducted without prior notice during events.
    • Out-of-Competition: Random testing can occur at any time and place.
  • Prohibited List:
    • Defined and updated yearly by WADA.
    • It includes steroids categorized as performance-enhancing substances.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Legal implications of steroid use vary by country but can include penalties, fines, and incarceration for the illegal distribution or possession. Ethical issues concern the unfair advantage gained in competition and the potential health risks. The focus on education and counseling aims to mitigate the shame and stigma associated with doping, encouraging clean sport.

  • Penalties for Misuse:
    • Violations may result in suspension, fines, and legal consequences.
  • Preventive Measures:
    • Education Programs: Information on risks of steroid use and importance of clean sport.
    • Counseling Services: Support for athletes who have experienced shame related to doping and need guidance.

Alternative Therapeutic Uses

women gym training 1

Steroids have various therapeutic uses beyond muscle building and sports enhancement. This section explores how they aid in the management of chronic diseases and specific dermatological and allergic conditions.

Steroids in Chronic Disease

Corticosteroids, like prednisone, play a crucial role in the management of chronic inflammatory diseases. Asthma sufferers, for example, often use a corticosteroid inhaler to reduce airway inflammation and manage symptoms. Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system, can also be managed with steroids to lessen inflammatory attacks.

For individuals with arthritis, steroids help reduce joint inflammation and pain. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis, often sees significant benefits from steroids, as they help reduce gut inflammation and associated symptoms.

  • Asthma: steroid inhalers (e.g., corticosteroid).
  • Multiple sclerosis: systemic corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
  • Arthritis: steroids to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: corticosteroids to manage inflammation.

Dermatological and Allergic Conditions

Steroids, specifically corticosteroids, are often prescribed in the form of creams or ointments for various skin conditions. They can reduce itching, redness, and swelling caused by allergic reactions or dermatological issues. Conditions like eczema and psoriasis benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of these topical treatments.

For systemic allergic reactions, corticosteroids can be administered to suppress the immune system‘s response and alleviate symptoms. Treating severe or chronic skin conditions often involves a comprehensive approach, including the application of corticosteroid creams and sometimes systemic steroids.

  • Skin conditions: Topical corticosteroid creams for eczema, psoriasis.
  • Allergic conditions: Systemic corticosteroids to control immune response and decrease swelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq heading 1

Steroid use in women raises several important health concerns. These FAQs provide insights into the effects on the female body.

What are the common side effects experienced by women who take anabolic steroids?

Women who take anabolic steroids may experience side effects such as menstrual irregularities, deepening of the voice, increased body hair growth, and possible enlargement of the clitoris. Some may also encounter skin issues like acne.

How does steroid use affect a woman’s physique and musculature over time?

Steroid use in women can lead to a more masculine physique, characterized by increased muscle mass and reduced body fat. Over time, women may also develop more pronounced muscular definition and strength.

What is the impact of steroids on female facial structure, particularly the jawline?

Anabolic steroids can lead to a condition known as masculinization, where women may experience a more pronounced or square jawline, along with other male characteristics in facial structure due to hormonal changes.

Which specific steroids are most commonly utilized by female bodybuilders?

Female bodybuilders often prefer steroids like Anavar (Oxandrolone) and Primobolan (Methenolone), as they are considered milder and more suited for the female physiology, reducing the likelihood of virilization effects.

Can steroids cause psychological effects in women, and what might those effects be?

Steroids can lead to psychological effects such as mood swings, increased aggression, depression, and even addiction. Women using steroids may also experience changes in libido and possible mental health disorders.

Do female athletes commonly use steroids to enhance their performance, and what are the implications?

Steroid use among female athletes can vary by sport and competitiveness. Those who do use steroids for performance may gain an unfair advantage but also risk their health, potential disqualification, and legal consequences.

General Practitioner at | Website | + posts

Dr. Grant Fourie, a specialist in male hormones, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He provides comprehensive treatments for conditions related to low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and mood changes. His methods include hormone replacement therapy and other modern treatment options.
Contact me via email or phone to book personal appointment in my clinic: The Village Square, Cape Town - South Africa


About Dr. Grant Fourie

Dr. Grant Fourie, a specialist in male hormones, is based in Cape Town, South Africa. He provides comprehensive treatments for conditions related to low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and mood changes. His methods include hormone replacement therapy and other modern treatment options. Contact me via email or phone to book personal appointment in my clinic: The Village Square, Cape Town - South Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *