Night sweats, hot flashes, irregular periods. If you’re a woman of a certain age, you know that these are the hallmarks of menopause. So you might be skeptical about a blood test designed to confirm something your body will tell you naturally. But there are good reasons to consider having it.
THE CHANGE IN DETERMINING “THE CHANGE”
Before this blood test, called MenoCheck, became available, doctors would confirm menopause only after the fact—once a woman hadn’t had a period for 12 straight months. Some doctors might check blood levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which increases as women approach menopause. However, FSH ebbs and flows during the time leading up to menopause, so it’s not a reliable indicator.
MenoCheck is more reliable and more specific than FSH tests because it measures levels of AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone), a marker of your ovaries’ reserve. As the ovaries’ pool of follicles (which contain eggs) further diminishes when you start the transition to menopause, levels of AMH hormone also continue to decline.
While AMH could be measured in blood tests before—often to help gauge fertility for family planning, MenoCheck is better able to measure declining concentrations and pinpoint where a woman is on the menopause path.
So do you really need a menopause test? Having a more accurate picture of how close you are to menopause can help guide your overall health care, including prevention steps. The loss of estrogen during menopause increases the risk of certain health conditions, including heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. So knowing definitively that the transition has started could prompt you to redouble your efforts to get enough calcium and vitamin D and engage in regular bone-building exercise to protect bones…and make sure that your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight are under control.
Knowing your menopause status is especially important for women having menopausal symptoms before the average age of 51—such as in your early to mid-40s. Early menopause makes women even more vulnerable to the health conditions listed above.
If the test confirms that bothersome symptoms are indeed due to menopause rather than another health issue, you can begin to explore treatments to relieve them. If you opt for hormone replacement therapy, your MenoCheck results may help determine the lowest possible effective dose.
MenoCheck may also help answer another big question—can you still get pregnant? Because of how accurately the blood test measures AMH, it can let you know whether you should still use birth control to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
For women who are already in perimenopause (and who feel like it’s dragging on!), the test can help evaluate how much longer the transition will take.
MenoCheck can be done in your doctor’s office, and results are typically available within five to 10 days. The test costs roughly $100 and, as of this writing, is not yet covered by insurance. Keep in mind that the test is simply a measure of a particular hormone, so the results need to be interpreted in the context of other health factors.