Although perimenopause is the most representative stage of the menopause process, many misunderstandings surround it. Perimenopause is the time in a woman's life directly before menopause, when the body begins producing fewer hormones.
Some women experience symptoms such as hot flashes, loss of libido, and irregular periods during perimenopause. However, no part of menopause is a disease and many women enjoy this phase in their life. Perimenopause symptoms are a result of the decrease in hormones that women experience during this phase.
Types of Perimenopause Tests
Lots of myths and misinformation surround menopause, so many women and the people close to them may be uncertain about the menopausal experience. If you wish to test to see if you are in perimenopause, there are two types of tests available. There is an at-home saliva test, which allows a woman to test her hormone levels by herself. A woman can also visit her doctor for a more definitive series of medical tests, which will likely include blood tests.
Home tests are done by buying a kit that measures your follicle stimulating hormones. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland, and its levels increase temporarily each month to stimulate ovaries to produce eggs. When a woman enters perimenopause and the function of a woman's ovaries shift, your FSH levels tend to increase.
It may still be a good idea to see a doctor after taking a home test to treat your symptoms of menopause, or if you are not going through menopause, to figure out what is causing your symptoms. Home tests should usually be taken in the morning and do not work if the person taking the test is on birth control. Home tests also become more accurate the closer a woman progresses to menopause, and usually at this point women already know they are menopausal.
To confirm perimenopause, it is best to visit your doctor, since he or she will be able to provide the right answers and treatment options for your symptoms.
A doctor will first evaluate your medical history including your age, symptoms, and menstrual periods. When you visit the doctor it is recommended that you keep track of your symptoms leading up to your appointment, and using a chart or calendar can often help with this.
It is a good idea to make a list of questions you would like your doctor to answer. Also make a list of any medications or supplements you are taking, along with the dosages and frequencies in which you take them. If your doctor is still unsure about the diagnosis, which is rare, he or she may ask you to complete one or more of the following tests:
- FSH. This test measures FSH levels again, and an increase in FSH levels can often confirm perimenopause.
- Estrogen test. This test measures estrogen levels, and lower levels of estrogen in the body may be an indicator for perimenopause.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test. This test may be completed to rule out a thyroid problem, which symptoms include irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, and fatigue.
Some women choose to get tested for peace of mind or to properly diagnose their symptoms. However, most women do not require a menopause test. Menopause is not a disease, it is a stage of life.
Each woman experiences perimenopause symptoms differently, so it is important to understand what your body is going through. Irregular periods and hot flashes are usually the main symptoms that alert a woman she is going through menopause.
By completing a test, series of tests, or by reading your symptoms and realizing you are going through menopause, you and your doctor will hopefully be able to understand what you and your body are experiencing. If you want to learn more, click on the following link about treatments for perimenopause.
- American Association of Clinical Chemistry. (2014). Estrogen: The Test. Retrieved from https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/estrogen/tab/test/
- Duenwald, M. (2004, August 17). The Consumer; Over-the-Counter Menopause Test Kits Offer Few Answers. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/17/health/the-consumer-over-the-counter-menopause-test-kits-offer-few-answers.html
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Perimenopause. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20029473
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Menopause. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/preparing-for-your-appointment/con-20019726