Self Tests for Menopause
Feeling more tired than usual? Missing the occasional period? Perhaps you're even noticing a few hot flashes during the day. Could this be menopause? Many women are asking themselves these very questions and it is important to be able to find out some answers. Menopause can be a scary and even depressing time for many women. But a lot of these negative feelings arise from the fact that it is difficult for many women to know if they are truly menopausal or not. Well, wonder no more! Self-testing is now available to help you find out if you could be entering menopause.
Why Testing is Important?
Whether you visit with your doctor or self-test at home, it is always important to get an accurate picture of what is going on with your body. It can be frustrating to have to deal with symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia and not know why they are happening. Getting a test done to measure your hormone levels could provide you with an explanation for all those uncomfortable symptoms.
Getting tested will also help prepare you for changes that your body may be beginning to experience. Aging is associated with various health issues, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and infertility. By getting your hormones tested you may be able to get on top of these issues sooner, decreasing your chances of having to face a serious illness. Testing for menopause is also a way that you can take control of your body and your health.
Types of Self-Tests Available
A number of self-tests are now being marketed to individual consumers. Most of these tests are inexpensive and easy to perform, and many offer surprisingly accurate results. The FDA has also approved many "at home" menopause test kits. It is important to keep in mind that menopause tests analyze different hormones in your body. Although each of these hormones plays an important role in your reproductive system, you should get a menopause test that you feel will provide you with the results you are most interested in. It is also suggested that tests are repeated on a regular basis in order to ensure the most accurate results possible.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone Tests (FSH Tests)
FSH levels and menopause are related. FSH tests measure levels of a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone that is present in your body. FSH is responsible for stimulating ovulation during your monthly cycle. FSH rises each month in order to encourage egg follicles to be released from the ovaries and travel through the fallopian tubes for fertilization. As FSH rises, levels of estrogen will drop. Once the egg has been released, your body recognizes the need to either prepare for pregnancy or produce a period, causing estrogen levels to rise and FSH levels to drop.
FSH tests can tell you if your FSH levels are particularly high. A high level of FSH may indicate that your body is trying to stimulate ovulation but isn't getting anywhere with it. This is generally one of the initial signs of menopause. Normal FSH levels are typically between 5 and 25 mlU/mL. An FSH test that tells you that your FSH levels are higher than 25 mlU/mL may indicate that you are entering perimenopause, the initial stage of menopause. If your FSH levels are higher than 50 mlU/mL, then you are in menopause.
Taking the Test
FSH self-tests are available as both urine and saliva tests and can be purchased online or at your pharmacy. Urine tests consist of a stick that you place in your urine stream and allow to process until it produces a result. Saliva tests involve you taking a sample of your saliva and sending it to a lab where it can be processed. Results are then mailed back to you.
Urine FSH tests are FDA approved and typically about 90% accurate. Saliva tests are not as accurate, and tend to be influenced by environmental stressors, including cigarette smoke, certain foods, hormone replacement therapy, or oral contraceptives
. However, saliva tests can give you an excellent idea of whether or not you should pursue further menopause testing.
Both of these tests should be performed on particular dates of you cycle. It is important to read the directions on the test carefully. If you are no longer menstruating, you can perform the test at any time. A follow-up test should be performed 5 to 7 days after the first test. It is also helpful to conduct a baseline test before your body begins to be menopausal; a test around age 35 should be helpful in establishing your "normal" FSH levels.
Progesterone and Estradiol Tests
These tests measure levels of individual sex hormones in your body. Both progesterone and estradiol, a type of estrogen, play important roles in triggering reproductive functions. Low progesterone or estrogen levels may indicate the beginning of menopause.
These tests are typically saliva tests, though your doctor can also perform them using a blood sample. Hormone tests are available for order online at relatively low cost. Saliva tests may not be as accurate as a blood test, because they can only measure the amount of unbound or "free" estrogen or progesterone in the body. Your body also stores estrogen and progesterone by binding them to certain receptors, but only blood tests can measure levels of these bound hormones.
Like the FSH saliva test, this test is sent in to a laboratory and then results are mailed back to you. Normal estrogen levels usually measure between 30 and 400. Estrogen levels lower than 30 could indicate the onset of menopause.
Things to Remember
When taking a self-test for menopause it is important to remember that the results are merely an indication that you might be entering into a stage of menopause. The tests themselves cannot correctly determine if you are actually in menopause they merely measure levels of certain hormones. An abnormal hormone level may indicate menopause or it could be a symptom of another complication. All tests should be repeated on a fairly consistent basis, because hormone levels do fluctuate.
Do not use menopause tests as a form of birth control. Even if you test positive, you could still be ovulating and can still get pregnant. You should also discuss the results of your test with your health care provider. She may be able to use these test results along with evidence of any signs of menopause in order to make a diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate menopause treatment.