Menopause Tests - Do They Work?Jun 18, 2021
How do you know that you are in menopause? That is one of the most common questions I get and is often not easily explained because every woman has a different experience with symptoms. Some women don’t experience any symptoms besides the cessation of their menstrual cycle. Others have symptoms for years with fluctuations in their menstrual cycle that make life a living hell. In addition, how long the menopausal transition lasts varies from woman to woman, and according to Dr. Jen Gunter, “It’s not possible to know the menopause transition is happening until it’s happening.” (Menopause Manifesto, 2021).
But how do you know if your symptoms are menopause-related? Is there a test you can take that lets you know? If you believe advertisements, there most definitely is. Slogans such as “Test If You Are Transitioning Towards Menopause From The Comfort Of Home” or “5-minute menopause test” sure make it sound like you can, but there is no truth to those claims. No test will tell you when you will go through menopause because hormone levels can vary greatly daily and even during the day. Due to those high fluctuations, getting your hormone levels tested is mostly useless because the tests can’t tell you where you are in the menopause transition.
Several hormones play a role during menopause:
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Produced by the pituitary gland and responsible for getting an egg ready for conception each month
- Most commonly measured to determine menopause state. A consistent FSH blood level of >30 mIU/mL plus the last menstrual period more than 12 months ago is generally accepted as a sign of postmenopause.
- Normal levels of estrogen range between 30-400 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL), but after menopause, they fall below 30 pg/mL
- Its function is to prepare the lining of your uterus for pregnancy. If you don’t get pregnant, progesterone levels drop, and you get your period.
- Levels decline during the menopausal transition.
- Lack of progesterone can cause periods to become irregular, heavier, and longer during perimenopause (menopause.org)
The best tool to know where you are in the menopausal transition is to learn about menopause, its effects, and the symptoms and changes that may occur. Knowing your body and paying attention to what’s happening will be your absolute best indicator.
Some of the early signs of perimenopause include:
- Change in your menstrual cycle: skipping periods, irregular periods, heavy periods
- Unusual anxiety or feeling depressed
- Lack of energy
- Brain fog
- Inability to remember or concentrate
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Loss of libido
There are many more symptoms, but these are some of the more reported ones.
Nerd alert: For a more detailed breakdown of the adult female reproductive life, the most recent Stages of Reproductive Ages Workshop (STRAW) is a great resource. It provides guidance on the different stages, their lengths, characteristics, and signs. Although there is no exact test to determine menopause, STRAW also provides guidelines for hormone levels that play a role in determining the stages in the menopausal transition.
I hope that this little exploration of hormones is helpful to you and that you will save a lot of money not buying tests that won’t tell you anything, no matter how much they promise you answers.
If you have an interest in any other menopause- or fitness-related topic, let me know. I’d love to help.