Going through the menopause can cause a swirl of emotions. From mood swings to anxiety and night sweats to vaginal dryness, it’s no wonder “irritability” is included in the list of menopause symptoms. As you enter your 30s/40s/50s you may start to wonder, how do health professionals diagnose menopause and how will you know when you're menopausal?
Not having a period for 12 consecutive months is the general guideline, but for some women it’s not as straight forward as this.
When should you visit your health professional?
If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing menopause symptoms, or you’re finding your symptoms difficult to manage, speaking with your GP or health professional may help. With the wide variety of symptoms associated with menopause, other health conditions may go undetected if they are simply thought of as menopause symptoms.
For example, a malfunctioning thyroid is often mistaken for menopause symptoms. Read more here.
Your health professional may order a variety of tests to rule out a number of conditions before being able to confidently confirm menopause.
Before visiting your health professional
Before visiting your health professional, you may find it helpful to keep a note of all the symptoms you’re experiencing, how often they occur and how this may or may not be affecting your everyday life. Your health professional will be in a better position to diagnose menopause by asking the date of your last period and information about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Be open with your health professional. Discuss any symptoms which are causing you distress, there are a lot of treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms and your health professional can make recommendations to help you.
Follicle-stimulating hormone testing
Your health professional may run a blood test to check your estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level. FSH is a hormone released by the body to stimulate both estradiol (a form of estrogen) and the maturation of eggs. This is a very effective test to help diagnose menopause but can be less effective if performed during perimenopause as the hormone levels fluctuate, giving an incorrect reading.
Read more about FSH testing here.
Other ways of confirming menopause
While FSH testing is one of the most popular ways for your health professional to diagnose menopause, doctors can also test the pH level of your vagina. During reproductive years vaginal pH is typically 4.5, during menopause your pH levels can go up as high as 6.
Where does this leave us?
There are no tests that can confirm with 100% accuracy that you are entering menopause. The most accurate diagnosis of menopause comes from a combination of medical tests, medical history and a detailed record of the symptoms you’re experiencing. Listen to your body and if you are experiencing symptoms which you are finding difficult to manage, do not delay in visiting your GP. Your health professional is there to give advice and guidance and can help steer you in the right direction to start embracing the new you.