Is there a test for menopause?
Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing eggs and your body produces fewer oestrogen and progesterone hormones. If you’re over 45, the menopause is usually diagnosed when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months and when there’s no other reason for this happening (such as pregnancy or hormone therapy).
Menopause is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms. However, menopause tests are available and can be done by your doctor or at home using a self-test kit.
But how are tests used and how accurate are they?
What menopause tests are available from a doctor?
Your doctor should be able to diagnose perimenopause or menopause based on your age, symptoms, and how often you have periods. It’s unlikely you’ll need a menopause test.
However, if you’re taking hormonal treatments (for example, to treat heavy periods) it can be more difficult to know when you’ve reached menopause.
Another reason a doctor may offer you a test for menopause would be if your symptoms are happening early. If you’re not pregnant, your doctor may offer you a blood test if you’re:
- between 40 and 45 and have menopausal symptoms, including changes in your menstrual cycle (how often you have periods)
- under 40 and your doctor suspects you’re in early menopause. (About 1% of women experience menopause before the age of 40)
- The blood test will measure a hormone called FSH (follicle‑stimulating hormone), which is found in higher levels during menopause. Two tests are usually done 4 to 6 weeks apart. This is because levels can fluctuate with hormone cycles. However, because of these changing FSH levels, a low or high reading doesn’t necessarily mean menopause has started.
You shouldn’t be offered an FSH test if you’re taking a contraceptive containing oestrogen and progestogen, or high‑dose progestogen, because the contraceptive changes your natural FSH levels.
There are other conditions that can cause similar symptoms to menopause. If your doctor isn’t sure what's causing them, they may arrange some other blood tests as well.
For example, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can sometimes also cause hot flushes or palpitations. See a doctor if you get symptoms such as weight loss or swollen glands in addition to symptoms that are usually linked to menopause.
What menopause home tests are available?
Home tests are designed to detect raised levels of FSH. Most home kits test your pee, but others test your blood using a finger prick test. These tests will accurately detect FSH about 9 times out of 10, but they don’t prove you’re in menopause or perimenopause. This is because as you grow older, your FSH levels may rise and fall during your menstrual cycle.
The accuracy of urine tests can vary depending on factors like whether you tested your first morning pee, whether you’ve recently had lots to drink, or whether you use (or recently stopped using) oral or patch contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy(HRT).
If there’s a chance you could become pregnant, don’t stop taking contraceptives based on the results of a menopause test. They’re not foolproof and you could still get pregnant.
If you get a negative test result, don’t assume you haven’t reached menopause as there could be other reasons for the negative result. Have a chat with your doctor about your symptoms and test results. It’s also best not to use menopause tests to determine if you’re fertile or can become pregnant – they won’t give you reliable answers.
How do I do a home menopause test?
If you’re using a home test that uses your pee, follow the instructions provided. It’s usually best to do the test first thing in the morning using a fresh sample of urine. Your result should be available within 5 to 10 minutes.
Also follow the kit instructions if your home test uses a blood test. Usually, the process is similar to this:
- wash your hands with warm, soapy water and then dry your hands (you might find it more difficult to do the test if your hands are cold)
- use a swab included in the kit to clean a fingertip and wait until your finger is dry
- use the small needle provided to prick one of your fingertips
- use your other hand to squeeze the fingertip and drop the blood sample into the collection tube provided
- pack the test up and send it to the laboratory for analysis in line with the instructions. The result will be sent back to you
When to see a doctor
Have a chat with your doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms, or unsure if they are linked to menopause; if you would like to know if you’re experiencing the perimenopause or menopause; or if you’re considering doing an FSH home test.
It’s also worth seeing a doctor if you’re under 45 and think you might be experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Your health questions answered
Can you self-diagnose perimenopause?Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson
Yes – the symptoms of perimenopause are common and include hot flushes, mood swings, ‘brain fog’, vaginal dryness, and sexual difficulties, as well as joint pains, dizziness, altered periods, and palpitations.
You can always speak with your doctor if you believe you’re experiencing perimenopause symptoms.
- the perimenopause and menopause are usually diagnosed without the need for any tests
- if you’re over 45 years old, diagnosis is usually based on symptoms such as hot flushes and irregular periods
- in some cases, your doctor may arrange a blood test to check your FSH hormone levels, which can show if it’s likely you’re in perimenopause – these tests aren’t always accurate because of changes in your hormone levels at different times
- home testing kits can also check FSH levels. These aren’t designed to diagnose menopause, but simply show your FSH hormone levels
- discuss any possible perimenopause symptoms with your doctor