Diagnosis of Menopause
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, family and medical history, and perform a physical exam. You may have blood tests, a pelvic exam, and a Pap smear. Natural menopause is usually diagnosed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Some clinicians will diagnose after six months without menses.
Diagnosis of menopause is often based on the presence of menopausal symptoms and, in some cases, changes in hormone levels. Your healthcare provider will also consider whether there are any other possible causes for your symptoms.
In most cases, hormone tests are not needed. However, your healthcare provider may give you a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test, which measures the level of follicle-stimulating hormone in your blood. This is done to confirm that you have menopause. Women most likely to have this test are those who have had a hysterectomy with preservation of ovaries. Without the cessation of menses as a guide, the FSH level may be used to diagnose menopause.
FSH is produced by your pituitary gland and stimulates your ovaries to produce estrogen. As your estrogen levels decline, your pituitary gland produces more FSH, which enters your blood in an attempt to stimulate more estrogen. When blood levels of FSH consistently rise to certain levels (usually >40), it is likely that you have reached menopause. More than one FSH test will be needed to confirm menopause. You should not be taking birth control pills when you have an FSH test because birth control pills contain hormones that will affect the test results.
National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/ . Accessed February 14, 2006.
National Women's Health Information Center website. Available at: http://www.4woman.gov/ . Accessed February 14, 2006.
North American Menopause Society website. Available at: http://www.menopause.org/default.htm . Accessed February 14, 2006.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
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