It used to be a taboo, something to hide, but nowadays conversations about menopause are more popular than ever and open up to different questions including how to diagnose it.
If you are over 40, you’ve probably started to pay more attention to those colourful packaging, yet very expensive self-test kits available online as well as in big stores.
But how accurate are they?
Over-the-counter home tests could simply tell you whether you have elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in your urine – says health experts at Mayo Clinic-. But, since FSH levels rise and fall during the course of your menstrual cycle, home FSH tests can’t really tell you whether or not you’re definitely in a stage of menopause.
Concerns over the reliability of do-it-yourself menopause home testing kits have been raised also by the British Menopause Society.
These tests are limited by only measuring follicle-stimulating hormones, rather than looking at the wider clinical picture – explains chairman Dr Haitham Hamoda -. FSH levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and during the menopause transition. While elevated levels of FSH may indicate perimenopause or menopause, a negative test for elevated FSH levels does not necessarily indicate that someone is not in menopause or perimenopause.
If you want to know whether your symptoms are a result of menopause or not, there’s nothing stopping you from taking an at-home menopause test: it works in the same, simple manner as an at-home pregnancy test, but it can only serve as a guide for you to make an appointment with you healthcare provider.
In fact, only your doctor, knowing your medical history and assessing your condition, can diagnose it.
According to WebMD: “Menopause is not defined by a blood test, or a urine test, or any lab test for that matter. Women can have terrible menopause symptoms and yet their FSH level may remain in the premenopausal range. Conversely, women without symptoms such as hot flashes may have an FSH level in the menopausal range.
Also, results you might get from a home-tests aren’t always so obvious to interpret: a negative reading does not mean you have not reached menopause, other factors could be contributing to the negative result. On the other hand: a positive test result may indicate that you are experiencing a stage of menopause. But it’s not fool-proof and you could run the risk of becoming pregnant without using any birth control.
Basically, the self-test kit only measures hormonal imbalance. Guidance from the National Institute of Care Excellence still recommends diagnosing perimenopause and menopause by looking for common symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and irregular periods.