Menopause Self Testing?

A pair of hands holding a test.

Self-testing is something that women are familiar with; pregnancy tests are one common form of self-test which is considered to be reliable, although it is always good to confirm a positive result of a home pregnancy test with a blood test ordered by your GP.  In the last two years especially, everyone has become comfortable with the idea of self-testing – whether that's a lateral flow test where you administer and interpret the test yourself, or a PCR test where the swab you take is sent to a laboratory for analysis. 

Menopause experts are now concerned that some companies offering self-testing kits for menopause could be taking financial advantage of women of a certain age.  The results of these home tests are not easy to interpret without practitioner support, and in many cases do not have any diagnostic validity, especially in women of menopausal age who are having other classic symptoms.

The tests, sold in many high street pharmacies, claim to reliably tell whether a woman is in menopause by reading the levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) in urine.  While elevated FSH levels can be a sign of menopause, it is not a cast-iron guarantee that these levels are due to menopause as there are other potential reasons for elevated levels of this hormone. As we know from our menstrual cycles, our hormone levels also fluctuate throughout the month, so a single test that picks up a high level of FSH doesn't necessarily confirm menopause.

Dr John Rees, director of a menopause self-test company, says that each pack contains two tests to be taken a week apart, with two positive results indicating that you have started menopause.  While consistently high FSH levels can indicate menopause, the same type of test is also taken to investigate infertility and ovarian problems (including PCOS), so readings interpreted at home and not in light of a full case history may not take these issues into account.  Additionally, hormonal birth control can skew the results of these tests and potentially give a false negative.

False negatives and false positives can lead people not to seek medical advice when they might benefit from it; the British Menopause Society cautions that these home tests can lead to anxiety, confusion and even unplanned pregnancy.  Dr Annice Mukherjee from the Society of Endocrinology warns that perimenopause is a “hormonal rollercoaster” and that these tests do not offer any real, useful insight.  She is concerned that these tests are financially exploiting women in their mid-life, especially as there is often no real benefit to knowing your FSH levels.

This is especially true for women over 45 who are experiencing other menopause symptoms.  Someone who has hot flushes, irregular periods and brain fog, and who is aged between 45 and 50 is incredibly likely to be experiencing perimenopause or menopause.  A GP won't order blood or urine tests to confirm this as clinical guidelines state that lab tests are unnecessary in these circumstances.

So, while self-testing can make you feel more in charge of your health, simply knowing your FSH levels doesn't actually tell you anything.  If you are thinking about testing for menopause, then we would encourage you to speak to your GP or an alternative health practitioner who can interpret any test results in light of a full case history. Or take the money you would spend on a test and use it to buy things that actually help address problem symptoms, such as our MenoShake, a gym membership or other supplements that bring you tangible, meaningful benefits.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published