It turns out that numbers dont necessarily tell the whole story
Are you sure you want to do a home hormone test? my editor asked. Are you sure its not too personal? Why would that be personal, I think. This is stuff I make without trying. Its not even as revealing as keeping a food diary. Then two tests arrived from medical test-by-post company Thriva; one female baseline hormone test and one menopause test, so I realised that actually, yeah, that is pretty personal.
There are a couple of reasons why someone might want to test. If youre trying to figure out why youre not getting pregnant, you can wait a long time for investigations on the NHS. If youre having menopausal symptoms, you might want to confirm the hunch so you can make a decision about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If youre just curious… well, this is what happened with me.
If youre still menstruating, you have to test on day three of your cycle, but I did the menopause test on day 28. That one came back with extremely low everything: low vitamin D (winter, innit), and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone, which play a role in egg production and egg release respectively. In proper menopause, those would all be high. Then I speak to Maisie Hill, the author of Period Power, who explains this is all completely normal at the end of a cycle. Its partly user error (I should have read instructions on the website more carefully), but theres a bit of a design flaw here: if your periods arent regular, which in perimenopause they often arent, youd never know you were on day 28.
Test two, the female baseline, I did at the exact right point day three and it came back with much higher FSH and luteinising hormone, two hormones that surge as you head towards menopause. Since people trying to get pregnant (which Im not) want FSH readings of less than 10, and mine was 20, I assumed this meant perimenopause. But not necessarily, says Hill.
It turns out that all of this is pretty complicated: first, you should always repeat the test twice to verify results. Second, the levels of certain hormones dont give you the whole picture.
Should I be considering HRT? I speak to Dr Jan Toledano of the London Hormone Clinic. You wouldnt want to go on HRT unless youre low in oestrogen, she says. Oestradiol, or E2, is the oestrogen hormone I have been tested for, and that is within range. Youre in your mid-40s, so its probably progesterone youre short of, Dr Toledano concludes. This test doesnt do progesterone.
The problem with these kits is that I didnt really understand where I was until Id spoken to some more specialists, and even after that, I was still on a quest for more information. Knowledge is power, I concluded, but numbers arent necessarily knowledge.
What I learned
The Dutch test is the most comprehensive, but, with multiple samples, quite an undertaking.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us