Lately, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women now lifting weights in the gym and training like bodybuilders. Years ago, women tended to focus purely on cardio, which is where the phrase ‘cardio bunny’ originated from. In gyms, women were found on treadmills, whereas men were found pumping iron. Now however, more women are lifting weights than ever before. The ‘Girls that Lift’ movement is growing by the day as women are finally realising that lifting weights naturally will not transform them into androgenic freaks of nature. However, there’s a dark side to women’s bodybuilding, and that dark side revolves around the use of anabolic androgenic steroids. Steroid abuse in women can be very serious and can result in all kinds of unpleasant side effects. Today’ we’re looking at the side effects of steroids in women as we’ll be looking at some of the more prominent drawbacks associated with anabolic steroid misuse in women.

Legal disclaimer

The content you are about to read is for educational and informational purposes only. We do not condone the use of anabolic steroids or illegal compounds, nor do we ever recommend their use. Anabolic steroids have the potential to be fatal. Not only that, but they provide some pretty-severe side effects, like you’re about to read about. The following article is designed to inform the readers about the dangers of steroid use and abuse.

Female bodybuilders and steroids

Years ago, steroid abuse amongst professional female bodybuilders was a very real problem. Because of that, even the IFBB was forced to clamp down, albeit unofficially and very quietly, in a bid to minimize the risks posed to women by using steroids. Women, such as Dana Linn Bailey, were abusing steroids so heavily, that in all honesty it was virtually impossible to distinguish the difference between male and female bodybuilders, except for the fact that female bodybuilders were wearing a bikini instead of posing trunks. This sounds cruel but it’s the truth unfortunately. Nowadays, with bikini and fitness divisions, steroid abuse amongst female bodybuilders does look to be less prolific, although it does still happen. Androgenic anabolic steroids can cause a wide range of side effects in women. Some of the main dangers include:

Enlarged clitoris

When men use steroids, because they often shut down the production of testosterone, this usually results in atrophy of the testicles. In short, steroids can make men’s balls shrink. In women however, steroids can have the opposite effect. Women that use anabolic steroids often find that their clitorises quickly increase in size. This is because of the fluctuations in hormones such as testosterone. Again, it sounds harsh, but some female bodybuilders that have abused steroids have found that their clitorises become so enlarged that they actually resemble a male’s penis. That’s the harsh reality when you deal with powerful drugs of this nature.

Hair growth

Another common side effect of steroid use and abuse in women is hair growth. Hair doesn’t just grow quicker on parts of the woman where it’s to be expected, but it also grows on parts of the anatomy where it is definitely not wanted. Female bodybuilders that have abused steroids including testosterone, often find that they start growing hair all over their bodies, including on their chests and on their faces. Female bodybuilders whilst on cycle, will generally need to shave daily, just as a man would. We aren’t talking about the legs, underarms, and bikini line either. We’re also talking about the face and chest.

Damage to the internal organs

When people talk about the dangers of steroid use in women, they often focus on the cosmetic drawbacks. This is primarily because of the fact that these changes are so dramatic. However, as well as looking at what’s going on on the outside, we also need to focus on what’s happening on the inside. Whether male or female, anabolic steroids will cause damage to your internal organs. In women however, this damage can often be more extreme. Anabolic steroid abuse will increase your blood pressure, it will damage your kidneys, it will damage the liver, it will put strain on your heart, it will increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, it will affect your insulin resistance and sensitivity levels, it will create unstable blood sugar levels, and much more besides. Needless to say, none of this is beneficial and each one could potentially be fatal.

Mental health issues

Steroid abuse tends to cause mood swings. One minute you could be up, and the next you’ll be feeling down and low. In fact, in both men and women, steroid abuse can cause very severe mental health issues. Steroids can cause us to feel aggressive, sad, anxious, depressed, emotional, and even paranoid for no obvious reasons. Furthermore, if you already suffer with pre-existing underlying mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, or depression, steroid abuse could exasperate the conditions and make them worse. Some women can even suffer from withdrawal symptoms when trying to finish a cycle of steroids, which is obviously far from ideal.


Even though some of the side effects we’ve already listed fall under the virilization category, we’re going to expand upon them, as well as a few others, just to ensure that we’re all understood about what virilization is. Basically, virilization brought on by steroid use in women, can trigger hormonal, physical, and biological changes that mimic the effects of testosterone in men’s bodies when they go through puberty. Virilization can cause:

  • Excess hair growth
  • Mood swings
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Deepening of the voice
  • A blocky jawline
  • An increase in muscle mass
  • Reduction of body fat in the hips and breasts, creating a less-feminine figure

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