At puberty girls begin to have monthly periods. The reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone are produced to allow for ovulation (release of an egg) to occur each month. As women age ovulation and fertility levels drop. As women approach menopause the release of oestrogen and progesterone becomes irregular. It is these fluctuating hormone levels that contribute to many of the symptoms of the menopause. To date there is no definitive test to diagnose perimenopause or menopause. Clinical diagnosis is by symptoms alone (Dr Deirdre Lundy, I.C.G.P).Once periods start becoming irregular in your 40’s,one needs to consider perimenopause in particular if accompanied by other symptoms.
Blood tests are of use if one is under 45 and suspected to be perimenopausal. These involve measuring Follicle stimulating Hormone (FSH)and Luteinising hormone (L.H). These tests can assist in diagnosis of perimenopause before the age of 45.
However, post 45 years of age our reproductive hormones are fluctuating throughout the day and unless recorded hourly, a one-off blood test is not indicative of menopause. There is a debate ongoing in the UK presently on the validity of one-off hormone testing when a woman is over 45. Over 9 million is spent annually on (FSH) tests in the U.K.
Once diagnosis is made women are in a better position to become active managers of their symptoms. I have met women recently who discovered they were perimenopausal at 38 and another woman who reached menopause at 59. No two women have the same symptoms or same journey. We are all unique!!!!Contraception remains very important around this time as women can become pregnant.
Keep in mind, this is a natural occurrence in a woman’s life, every woman on the planet transitions through this life stage. The average age for menopause in Ireland is 52.