Frequently Asked Questions about Hormones:
How do I know if I am menopausal?
Technically you are menopausal if your FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) goes over 30 but in my experience women continue to gradually increase their FSH until it reaches 250-300 and sometimes that increased stimulation of the ovaries actually works, and the ovaries spring into life for a short period.
This means that you might be over 30 FSH one month and under the next. Until the FSH is consistently over 50-60 or even 100 I would not rely on being fully menopausal.
How do I find out my hormone levels?
Your doctor will take your history and will give you a pathology form to have your hormones measured. I get all seven hormones measured the first time and then an abbreviated list from then on approximately every 3-6 months.
The hormones that should be measured the first time are: DHEA, FSH, LH, Oestradiol, progesterone, testosterone, SHBG. And I also add the ovarian tumour marker CA 125 at that stage as well.
Are blood tests or saliva test better?
It is said that saliva tests are better but in Australia they are costly, being around $250 every time. As the hormones change fairly often during the 2-5 years of menopause, I like to track them often if possible.
Some women simply cannot afford regular saliva testing. So we manage to extrapolate with blood tests as best we can. With proper supervision of blood results, the optimum hormone levels for women can be achieved.
How long does menopause last?
Again, the average time is around 3-5 years but some women hardly notice the change and some women are still flushing after 10 years! The latter women really need to be helped as their problem might not only be menopause.
If you are taking hormones, whether by drug company products or by natural bio-identical hormones, the recommended maximum time for taking oestrogens is 5 years post menopause.
If you are taking only progesterone, there is no such recommended limit, but be aware that some progesterone will convert to oestrogen by enzyme action in the body so too high progesterone will also be a problem after 5 years. Careful monitoring is needed throughout these stages.
I am taking what my doctor ordered so why am I still having hot flushes?
If your doctor has not measured your hormones in the last 6 months, that is where you start. If the hormone balance is good and you are still having flushes, even with an oestrogen level of 100 or more, then other causes for flushing should be explored. Some are simple, some are rare, but important. But in any event, for you to get relief, you need further testing eg 3 hour GTT, thyroid etc etc.
I am not really getting flushes anymore, but I’m still far from feeling 100% Why?
That depends on what your doctor has prescribed for you. If it’s HRT, it’s a little known fact (even in the medical profession) that HRT is significantly different to your body’s own hormones. That means that it does not enter your cells like your hormones used to. HRT simply blocks the hormone receptors in your cells, giving you some relief only (usually from flushes).
If you are taking natural hormones, they are bio-identical to your own hormones. Your cells will find them indistinguishable from your own hormones, so you should feel like your normal self. If you are still having symptoms, there may still be a time lag before your balance comes back. Alternatively, your doctor may need to retest your balance, especially if that hasn’t been done for a while because your levels continue to change during menopause.