Menopause: Home Menopause Test Kits, Are They Worth It?

  • Medical Author:
    Carolyn Janet Crandall, MD, FACP

    Dr. Crandall received her undergraduate degree from Pomona College and studied medicine both at Loyola University Strich School of Medicine and UCLA Medical School. She received honors both in biostatistics and behavioral science from Loyola Stritch School of Medicine. She is U.S. board certified in Internal Medicine and is presently an Associate Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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So what about this new home menopause kit? It tests the level of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in the urine.

Here's the first potential trap. Just because the results of a home urine test agree with the results of a laboratory blood test, doesn't mean the home test is "reliable." Blood FSH levels correlate poorly with menopausal symptoms. Since the blood FSH test isn't a reliable marker of predicting a woman's menopausal status, then neither is the urine test a reliable marker.

As disappointing and surprising as it may seem, many aspects of the menopause process remain a mystery to medical science. The medical definition of menopause is when menstrual periods stop for 12 months as a consequence of the ovaries shutting down. Menopause is not defined by a blood test, or a urine test, or any laboratory test for that matter.

A woman might then say, "Okay fine, but I want to know if my current symptoms could be because I am in menopause." So, then does FSH testing meet that need? Well, women can have terrible menopause symptoms and yet their FSH level may remain in the "premenopausal" range. Conversely, women can be having no hot flash symptoms at all and yet their FSH level may be considered in the "menopausal range."

To further complicate matters, the FSH test is highly variable during the time when periods are irregular just before periods cease permanently. For example, a woman might skip 3 periods, and then have periods for a few months, and then skip several periods again. During this time of irregular periods the FSH level can fluctuate tremendously. When the woman has had no periods for 12 months, by that time, she already knows she's menopausal what is the use of the FSH test?

For all of these reasons, FSH testing is not suited to be a routine test (like cholesterol screening, say) for every woman around the age of menopause. Encouraging women without any menopausal symptoms to check their FSH levels is not doing them any service.

If women don't have menopause symptoms, they don't need to have any menopause tests (even if the FSH were a perfect marker of menopause, which it isn't). Doctors are not going to prescribe therapy to a woman who is feeling fine without any menopause symptoms, no matter what her FSH levels. The FSH test only tells you if you have a high FSH level. It doesn't tell you if you are definitely in menopause (or premenopausal or perimenopausal) .

The bottom line is that, if you have menopause sym

ptoms, see your doctor, because even if your FSH level is not in the menopausal range, your symptoms can be due to menopause. And if you don't have symptoms, just sit back and don't worry about FSH tests. And by all means, do not use your home menopause test kit to make decisions about your fertility or your need to use contraception.

REFERENCE: FDA.gov.


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Reviewed on 8/30/2012

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