Bioidentical Hormones

Post image for Are Lab Tests Accurate in Testing for Perimenopause?

In Western medicine lab work is king. Blood work can tell you if you’re pregnant or if you’re not. You can determine if you’re diabetic or have kidney disease.

If you have an infection, a high white blood cell count will tell all.

And if law enforcement authorities want to determine if you are legally drunk, blood-alcohol levels can also send you to jail.

So, surely if you’re beginning to exhibit classic symptoms of perimenopause such as erratic menstrual cycles, hot flashes & night sweats, mood swings and insomnia, lab tests will confirm it all – right?

Well,  not exactly.

In fact, a lab test alone is probably the least dependable barometer of the onset of perimenopause. Yet, physicians continue to use them to dismiss women who believe they are in perimenopause,  because the results say their blood work is “normal.”

So, what’s a girl to do?

What Do Lab Tests Look For in Perimenopause?

When your physician administers a blood test to determine if you are in perimenopause, he or she is looking for a hormone that is secreted by your pituitary gland called FSH.

FSH or follicle stimulating hormone, is a hormone that is secreted by your body in response to low estrogen levels. When a woman is in perimenopause, it is assumed she will have low estrogen and progesterone levels, and hence, there will a higher presence of FSH in her blood.

While FSH levels are certainly an indicator of whether you are in perimenopause or not, it should not be presumed that you are or are not, based primarily on high or low FSH levels.

Why Are Lab Tests Alone Not Reliable in Detecting Perimenopause?

Think of lab tests and blood work like a camera. They provide a snapshot of your physiological health at a given point and time. Depending on when the lab tests are taken, you could have several different results.

For example, let’s say you’ve been cycling normally and you begin to enter a rough patch of life and are under a lot of stress.

You’re not eating right, sleeping right and perhaps even drinking a little too much alcohol to help you relax.  As a result, you may not cycle normally. You could even skip a couple of periods.

If you had blood work tested during that time your FSH levels would be high as your body tried to stimulate ovulation. The high FSH levels could indicate perimenopause.

Then, let’s say that period of stress passes and you begin to relax, eat and sleep better, and your cycles return to normal again. However, your estrogen and progesterone could still be out of balance.

You may even experience hot flashes and night sweats. In this scenario, you could be exhibiting classic symptoms of perimenopause and have normal FSH levels because you are cycling normally.

So while lab tests can be an excellent tool to help your physician determine if you are entering perimenopause, because of the variations that can occur at different times, they should not be used exclusively.

How Do I know If I’m in Perimenopause?

If you are in your mid to late 40s, perhaps even your late 30s and you begin to exhibit what you think are perimenopause symptoms, definitely see your doctor for the appropriate lab tests.

However, be mindful that you will need to have more lab tests taken over a period of time, also known as a “panel of lab tests” in order to get a more accurate picture of your hormone levels.

If your physician will not provide that for you seek the opinion of a second or third physician if necessary. Remember, you are the best barometer for how you feel.

If your instincts tell you that you might be in perimenopause, trust yourself.

{ 8 comments }

DHEA: What is it & Why Should You Care?

If you’re anything like me, prior to perimenopause the only thing you knew about hormones was that you had them, and that about every 28 days or so, you had a deep and passionate longing for a luscious piece of chocolate and a high powered firearm with bulls-eye accuracy. In prior generations there wasn’t much talk about [...]

July 9, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part III

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part III

This is the final post in Dr. Joseph Mazzei’s series on the relationship between estrogen therapy and breast cancer.    If you wish to contact Dr. Mazzei or any of his colleagues in the Body Logic medical group, please see his byline at the end of the post.  As always, the views expressed in this post [...]

July 2, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part II

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part II

Today’s post is a continuation of  Dr. Joseph Mazzei’s post on the relationship between estrogen therapy and breast cancer.  The views expressed in this post are not necessarily the views held by The Perimenopause Blog and are for informational purposes only. Please see your physician or healthcare provider for personal medical evaluations.  Let us continue our conversation from [...]

June 29, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part I

Thumbnail image for Does Estrogen Cause Breast Cancer? Part I

Today’s post is a guest post by Dr. Joseph Mazzei, a Chicago based doctor for BodyLogicMD, a medical group which sponsors The Perimenopause Blog. I asked Dr. Mazzei if he could give his opinion on estrogen therapy since it is starting to make its way back into the news once again.  In this post, Dr. Mazzei [...]

June 24, 2014 CONTINUE READING →

Symptoms of Perimenopause Symptoms of Menopause

I thought it would be appropriate – and helpful – to follow up on a recent post I did on the difference between perimenopause and menopause and provide a list of the symptoms associated with each. Though the terms are often (and I’m guilty of the same) used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Perimenopause is a transitional [...]

November 17, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Natural Therapies for Menopause & Product Giveaway!

Thumbnail image for Natural Therapies for Menopause & Product Giveaway!

Today’s post is a guest post from Dr. Rawls, co-founder of the company Vital Plan and the non-hormone product HPA Balance® to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms.  To participate in the giveaway either leave a comment on this post in the comment section, or join us at Facebook.  Either “Like” the post, or leave a [...]

October 14, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Maggie on the Radio!

Thumbnail image for Maggie on the Radio!

I was a guest on Hotze Wellness Radio on KSEV Radio in Houston, Texas, for the full hour yesterday, to discuss my role as a women’s health blogger, and advocate for women going through perimenopause. I tried not to think about how many people might be listening, and focus only on the doctor who was [...]

October 4, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

What are the Risks & Side Effects of Prometrium?

Thumbnail image for What are the Risks & Side Effects of Prometrium?

Prior to my taking Prometrium, an FDA approved, bioidentical, oral progesterone, I used bioidentical progesterone in a cream form, which I purchased from compounding pharmacies. I was careful to only purchase the highest grade and quality I could find (read: expensive), and used it happily for several years with no negative side-effects. Last year, on the [...]

August 24, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

S.959: What is it and Why Should You Care?

Thumbnail image for S.959: What is it and Why Should You Care?

If you are a faithful reader of my blogs – and if you’re not you should be – then you might remember a few posts I did last year on a certain brouhaha surrounding compounding pharmacies. One of the first posts I wrote (which you can find here) explored the safety of compounding pharmacies. The post [...]

July 16, 2013 CONTINUE READING →

Great Job Cutting Through the Noise!

Thumbnail image for Great Job Cutting Through the Noise!

He said in response to my recent post at Healthline.com….”If Menopause is a Natural Process, Why Use Hormones?” “He” is Dr. Steven Rabin, M.D., a Burbank, California gynecologist – and I did appreciate the support and enthusiastic thumbs-up for my article. It’s always good when members of the medical community offer kudos. I just don’t [...]

June 17, 2013 CONTINUE READING →