Natural menopause is usually diagnosed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
Your doctor 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.
Most women in their late 40s and early 50s will have menopausal symptoms. Your doctor will consider if testing for other possible causes of these symptoms is needed.
In most cases, hormone tests are not needed. However, your doctor may give you a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test, which measures the level of FSH in your blood. This is done to confirm that you are in 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, it is likely that you have reached menopause. More than one FSH test may 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.
FSH. American Association for Clinical Chemistry Lab Test Online website. Available at:
http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/fsh/tab/glance. Updated November 2, 2012. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Menopause. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 15, 2013. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Menopause. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq047.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130416T1306377302. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Menopause basics. US Department of Health and Human Services Women's Health website. Available at:
http://womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/index.html. Updated September 29, 2010. Accessed April 18, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD, FACP
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