Can You Really Test For Menopause?

menopause testWhoever said that death and taxes were the only sure things in life clearly wasn’t a woman. Although you don’t know exactly when it will come, what it will be like, or how it will change your life, you can look forward to the onset of menopause at some point during your middle age as surely as the sun rises. Unfortunately, the early symptoms of menopause can be vague and may be confused with other conditions. To ensure that you know exactly when you’ve begun the process and can respond to it appropriately, talk to your doctor about testing for menopause.

Menopause Basics

Menopause is defined as a cessation of menstruation for a continuous 12-month period that occurs in women within the expected age range and can’t be explained by other medical factors. While it’s natural to assume that you’ve hit menopause if you’re middle-aged and haven’t had a period in over a year, the condition isn’t as cut-and-dry as you’d think. Menopause is caused by shifting hormone gradients that fluctuate wildly during its beginning and middle stages, rendering any test that measures your body’s hormone levels inherently uncertain. In other words, none of these tests is foolproof.

Why Test For Menopause?

Like puberty, menopause causes major physical and emotional changes and, over time, will radically reorder your health priorities. Postmenopausal women have an elevated risk for serious health problems like breast cancer as well as non-life-threatening but still annoying issues such as spider veins.

Obviously, menopause also has a major impact on family planning decisions. If you are beginning to experience the irregular periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness that characterize perimenopause but still intend to have more children, you and your partner may need to hurry.

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone Test

Since “FSH” is responsible for controlling the regularity of your menses by chemically stimulating your ovaries in the days leading up to ovulation, it’s a powerful predictor of your menstrual cycle’s overall stability.

To prepare for your FSH test, you will need to stop taking certain classes of drugs, including birth control pills and other medications containing either estrogen or progesterone, about a month before your test. You’ll also need to wait for a full week after using radioactive tracers. The test itself involves drawing a relatively small amount of blood and results are available within 24 hours. In general, higher blood concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone hint at diminished ovary function, which can be due to menopause in women over age 40 or ovarian failure in younger individuals.

Estrogen Test

Since estrogen keeps your ovaries healthy and works with FSH to maintain your menstrual regularity, decreasing blood concentrations of this hormone may indicate perimenopause. There are several different varieties of estrogen present in your body at any given time, but the specific compound that affects the function of your ovaries is known as estradiol. Like FSH, your doctor will measure your body’s estradiol levels with a blood work test. Higher hormone levels usually indicate a serious condition, like an ovarian tumor, while lower levels are a good but not exclusive indicator of menopause.

Luteinizing Hormone Test

Luteinizing hormone, or LH, is a pituitary hormone that kick-starts the process of ovulation. Like other tests to indicate menopause, the LH test involves drawing a small amount of blood for laboratory analysis. Unlike FSH and estradiol, though, LH actually becomes more prevalent in your blood as you approach menopause. In fact, depressed levels of LH in otherwise healthy women are usually indicative of a crippled or non-functioning pituitary gland.

Treating Menopause

While you can’t turn back time, you can certainly mitigate menopause’s unfortunate side effects. Some culinary and medical treatments for common menopause-related issues include:

  • Night sweats: Black cohosh, an herb native to the United States, and flaxseed have both proven effective at countering hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Osteoporosis: A major post-menopause ailment, osteoporosis is best treated with regular oral doses of calcium at mealtimes.
  • Mood swings: In combination with black cohosh, St. John’s wort can “smooth out” the disruptive mood swings associated with menopause.
  • Hot flashes: Soy is chock full of compounds that mimic estrogen, and studies have shown that women who eat it regularly experience hot flashes less often.

You don’t have to fear the onset of menopause, but there’s no denying that it’s a major change. Because of the magnitude of that change, testing may give you the information you need to at least combat the symptoms more effectively. Talk to your doctor to determine the best course of action for you and begin preparing for the next, new and exciting stage of life.

Karen Boyarsky is a freelance blogger writing on behalf of You can follow her on Twitter @BoyarskyKaren.

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