First, let’s get clear on something: If you’re wondering, how is menopause diagnosed?, that might be a slightly biased way to look at it. Diagnosis is for illness, and menopause is not an illness. It is a totally normal life phase. So rather than talking about “diagnosing menopause,” let’s talk about “confirming” it.
How do you confirm menopause?
The definition of menopause is the time 12 months after you have your last period. Perimenopause is the transition time leading up to this point.
Usually, if you have classic menopause symptoms and you haven’t had your period in 12 months, there is probably no need for a test – odds are, you have gone through menopause. If you want scientific confirmation, though, the only relatively reliable methods of testing are menopause blood tests.
In 2018, the FDA approved a blood test that tests the levels of AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) in your blood. This hormone is produced by your ovaries and helps out with growing and releasing your eggs. It’s one of the hormones that take a dip when you hit menopause, so knowing its levels can be useful in figuring out if this is where you’re at.
But this test shouldn’t be done in isolation. You will also need to have a full health check-up that includes talking to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.
Before your appointment, it’s not a bad idea to keep a journal so that you’re able to chat with your doctor about what’s going on. You’ll want to keep a record of your periods and any symptoms you’re experiencing. Here’s a list of some of the signs and symptoms of menopause to look out for.
At your appointment, the doctor will likely ask you questions like:
- When was your last period?
- How regular are your periods?
- What symptoms do you have?
- How bad are your symptoms?
- Does anything make your symptoms better/worse?
In some cases, your doctor will also test for levels of other hormones to help figure out what’s going on:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH levels. These go up when you transition into menopause. If your levels are 30 mIU/mL or higher and you haven’t had a period for a year or longer, menopause is likely to be what’s happening.
- Estrogen. This goes down when you transition into menopause.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone. If these are very low, it might signal that something’s up with your thyroid.
How can you test for menopause at home?
You can’t really. At least not reliably.
You may have heard of at-home urine tests that test your FSH levels? Don’t bother. First, they don’t give a reliable reading. Secondly, because your FSH (and other hormones) levels go up and down over this time, whatever reading you get can’t be taken as gospel. The tests are also really expensive.
Saliva tests for menopause also exist, but they are also not reliable, regulated, or approved.
How do you test for early menopause?
The average age to go through menopause is between 45 and 55. About 5% of women go through menopause earlier than this. Confirming early menopause is very similar to confirming standard menopause. But earlier menopause can come with some added health risks, so if you think this is what is up, definitely call your doctor for a check-up.
To review, yes, there are tests for menopause. But the best way to confirm menopause is to track your periods and symptoms and then make an appointment with your doctor. Good luck!