You think you might be entering menopause – but how can you be sure? Can you take a test for menopause? What tests are usually done? Can I do an at home test myself for menopause?

Yes, there are ways to measure and record the changes that are occurring for you. But it is not as simple as doing a blood test and basing a diagnosis solely from the results.

Keep in mind that menopause is the absence of a period for 12 months. In reality, most women are going through PERIMENOPAUSE before menopause. Menopause at the end of the road – perimenopause is the road you travel to get there (that’s a poor analogy, “end of the road” when for some women it is the start of a whole new chapter!). A lot of people tend to refer to perimenopause as menopause.

Perimenopause is when the symptoms start to kick in. When you notice changes. It could be erratic periods, hot flashes, mood changes, low libido, dry skin and hair loss. The list goes on. In fact, there are at least 34 common symptoms of perimenopause. But many more symptoms can crop up – every woman is different. Typically changes start in your 40s.

Is there a hormone test that can detect it?

No. We wish there was.

Testing of hormones is not beneficial for those undergoing perimenopause. Since hormone levels fluctuate throughout a woman’s cycle. Assessing hormone levels can be useful, however, when considering fertility issues. Or if a woman’s period ceases before the expected age. Doing so can help women make treatment decisions. Other conditions (such as thyroid disease) can cause symptoms that are like perimenopause.

Flo Hive has noticed that certain countries differ in their approach to the diagnosis of perimenopause. For example in Australia and the UK blood tests are not usually done. Whereas in the US it is more common to take bloods for testing to determine perimenopause. It is fascinating to see the different approaches depending on where you live. At the same time, it is difficult to hear that because their bloods came back “normal” their doctor did not offer any treatment. Even though they have symptoms – and their symptoms persist.

The same can be said of doctors dismissing women’s symptoms with “You still have a regular cycle so you can’t be in perimenopause” or “You are too young.” Flo Hive has observed this many times in Australian women’s experiences.

If you believe you are in perimenopause, and meet with opposition from your healthcare provider – seek out another doctor.

Can follicle-stimulating hormone tests be done?

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) tends to be elevated in perimenopause and menopause.

Whilst one FSH result might indicate perimenopause, the fact is – it is not enough to confirm it.

Estrogen and FSH levels can fluctuate wildly during this period.

Moreover, a low FSH level in a woman who has the hallmark signs and symptoms doesn’t rule out the possibility of her being in perimenopause. Additionally, if the woman is using hormone therapies, like birth control pills, the test won’t be accurate.

Adding to the confusion – women can dip in and out of perimenopause. If perimenopause is the road that leads to menopause, you probably won’t drive at a steady speed to get there. Your car stalls, it reverses, it can speed up. I know it is confusing, but it is not uncommon it dip in and out of perimenopause along the way.

One situation where it can be useful to use FSH is to confirm menopause. When a woman’s FSH blood level is consistently 30 mIU/mL or higher, and she has not menstruated for 12 months. Then it can be said that she has entered menopause.

In addition to blood tests – urine tests that measure FSH levels are expensive and not useful for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Any at home testing you decide to do is simply information for you. To better inform you. But Flo Hive suggests that you don’t consider the results as a diagnosis. Just information.

How about saliva testing for menopause?

Salivary hormone tests are expensive and their precision is questionable. They should not be relied on for diagnosing or managing menopausal symptoms. If you do take a saliva test – then it would purely be information for you – not something that is definitive of perimenopause. Nor is it something you could take to your doctor as proof. Only a very rough indicator.

What menopause tests are available?

There are many on the market. And they are all testing FSH levels. The higher the FSH, the higher the likelihood of perimenopause or menopause. But again, please keep in mind that any at home testing results should be taken with a grain of salt.

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How can I measure my menopause?

The most accurate way to determine perimenopause is to base it on the patients experience of symptoms. And there are questionnaires your doctor should be using. If not you can fill it out yourself and take it to them to discuss your symptoms!

Flo Hive recommends using this Perimenopause Symptom Scorecard.

It was first devised back in 1976! Almost 50 years ago!

The impact of perimenopause can have on a woman has been known for a very, very long time. Which is why it is so frustrating to hear that some women’s symptoms are dismissed by their doctors.

The Symptom Scorecard has been modified to be used for a couple of different scenarios. You can use it to show your current symptoms and symptoms after 3 and then 6 months. So you can track whether things are improving for you – or not.

If you decide to take hormone therapy (MHT) then it can be used to measure how effective the treatment has been over time – at the 3 and 6-month mark.

Whatever way you decide to use the symptom scorecard is up to you. But remember to keep a copy for yourself if you decide to hand the original over to your doctor. Just so you can have it on hand and look back on it whenever you need to. It can be confusing to know whether your symptoms are getting better or worse. The card gives you a snapshot in time and is much more accurate than trying to rely on memory alone.

Conclusion

If you believe your symptoms are perimenopause, it is time to go to the doctor.

Even if you do not wish to undertake any treatment, a general physical exam is a good idea at this time. Changes in hormones can affect weight, blood pressure, mental health, cholesterol and bone health. It would be wise to get thoroughly checked and do so on a regular basis from now on.

I know. Annual check ups! Pretty sure that is something only grown ups do?!?!? Oh wait…

Your doctor should be looking at the big picture. Taking into account your medical record, menstruation history, and your current signs and symptoms. Having your completed Symptom Score Card will help you get the most out of your appointment.

There is no definitive test to determine if menopause or perimenopause is present. To check for any abnormalities, keep track of your menstrual cycle and use the Symptom Score Card. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider. And remember, if you are met with opposition or your concerns are dismissed – it is time for a new doctor.

References

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/menopause

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6983294/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303088/

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