Hormones are essential to your health, moderating every biological process from brain development to your reproductive cycle. It's no surprise that healthcare providers frequently use hormone testing to evaluate women's health. All women and other people assigned females at birth should understand when they may need hormone testing and the type of testing available to them.
Female hormones regulate everything from the growth and development of female sexual traits to preparing and maintaining the uterus for pregnancy.
Symptoms that may indicate hormonal changes include vaginal dryness, weight gain, abnormal hair growth, irregular periods, fatigue, and more.
These changes may be due to underlying changes causing an imbalance or simply signaling natural changes in your body, such as entering menopause.
Healthcare providers commonly test for female hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
While at-home tests are available for convenient, private testing of hormone levels, always consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.
Role of female hormones in women's health
Hormones play a crucial role in everyone's overall health and well-being. In women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB), hormones such as estrogen and progesterone affect everything from their menstrual cycle to the development of female sex characteristics.
Testing for female hormones helps healthcare providers evaluate the overall health and well-being of their women and AFAB patients. Measuring hormone levels can also help identify possible hormonal imbalances, allowing healthcare providers to help women manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Commonly tested female hormones
Healthcare providers check for specific hormones during an assessment. These commonly include the following:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Regulates the growth and development of eggs in the ovaries.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH). Stimulates egg release from ovaries during ovulation.
- Estrogen. Responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics; regulates the menstrual cycle.
- Progesterone. Prepares and maintains the uterus for and during pregnancy.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Helps regulate thyroid function.
In some instances, healthcare providers may also for the lactation hormone prolactin, testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), 17-OH progesterone, and cortisol (released due to stress).
When hormone levels are too low or high, it may indicate menopause, ovarian dysfunction, pituitary gland dysfunction, and other issues. Hormones may be tested from either a blood, urine, or saliva sample, depending on the hormone as well as the type of test.
Common female hormone at-home test kits
At-home test kits provide the convenience of evaluating your hormone levels at home. Various test kits that are available on the market include thyroid, menopause, pregnancy & fertility, and cortisol test kits.
Thyroid hormones help regulate processes related to growth and development and metabolism. Thyroid conditions are common in women, and TSH levels can be measured to help diagnose them. Symptoms of thyroid issues include abnormal hair growth, lethargy, and irregular periods.
Menopause test kits
Menopause test kits can be used to test for FSH levels, which can help women determine if they are approaching or in menopause. Other kits measure whether postmenopause has been reached by assessing the levels of other reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Women over 40 experiencing symptoms of menopause, such as vaginal dryness, night sweats, and hot flashes, may be interested in these test kits.
Pregnancy & fertility test kits
Fertility test kits help women keep track of their ovulation cycle and are recommended for use in women who have had difficulty conceiving after one year or more of trying. Pregnancy test kits help women determine whether or not they have conceived a child, which is usually accompanied by symptoms like nausea or tenderness of the breasts. These test kits measure your LH, FSH, progesterone, and estrogen levels.
Cortisol test kits
Your cortisol levels may indicate whether or not you're experiencing problems with your adrenal gland, which produces hormones that control essential functions like your blood pressure and heart rate. Alterations in cortisol levels may indicate diseases like Cushing's syndrome or Addison's disease. Symptoms of adrenal problems include weight loss or weight gain, fatigue, and skin discoloration.
Women's health: at-home hormone tests
A list of companies that manufacture multiple single-use test kits, the types of kits manufactured, and the average cost of these kits are listed in the table below.
|Company||Thyroid kits||Menopause kits||Pregnancy & Fertility kits||Cortisol kits||Comprehensive kits||Price|
|EverlyWell||Metabolism Kit||Perimenopause and Postmenopause Kits||Women’s Fertility Test||Metabolism Kit||Women’s Health Test Kit||$99-$249|
|LetsGetChecked||Thyroid and Thyroid Antibody Tests||PCOS Test||Progesterone, Ovarian Reserve, and PCOS Tests||PCOS Test||Female Hormone Test||$99-$199|
|MyLabBox||Weight Loss Kit, Thyroid Screening, Anti-Aging, and Fitness Tests||Perimenopause and Postmenopause Tests||Female Fertility Test Kit, Ovulation Confirmation, and Ovarian Reserve Tests||Metabolism Test, Adrenal Stress test or the Slee + Stress Test; Weight Loss and Fitness Tests ||Women’s Health Kit||$32-$239|
Note: free T4, free T3, and thyroid peroxidase antibodies help measure thyroid function.
In addition to these companies, ones that focus specifically on fertility testing include Proov and Modern Fertility, which manufacture single-use test kits, and Mira and Inito, which manufacture monitoring devices that provide an overview and tracking of your fertility cycle. Keep in mind that test kits will not give you a holistic view of everything that may be happening to your body. You need to consult with your healthcare provider regarding test results and symptoms you may be experiencing or other concerns.
What do they measure exactly?
It might be hard to indicate which hormones the test kit measures exactly just from a generic name. Here are some of the specific hormones each test kit measures:
|Test kit||What it measures|
|Metabolism Kit||Cortisol, free testosterone, and TSH|
|Women’s Health Test Kit||Estradiol, progesterone, LH, FSH, DHEAS, cortisol, TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid peroxidase antibodies|
|PCOS Test||FSH, LH, cortisol, and more|
|Female Hormone Test||FSH, LH, prolactin, and estradiol|
|Weight Loss Kit||Estradiol, testosterone, cortisol, TSH, and more|
|Anti-Aging Test||Estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, TSH, and more|
|Fitness Test||Cortisol, TSH, DHEA, and more|
When to check hormone levels
When hormone levels are out of balance, women and AFABs can experience many symptoms that impact their quality of life. Hormone testing is recommended if you're experiencing signs that indicate a hormone imbalance. These symptoms may include any of the following:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Menopausal symptoms in women under 40
- Vaginal dryness
- Abnormal hair growth
- Poor focus or concentration
- Changes to sleep or mood
- Feeling lethargic
Also, regular hormone testing may be recommended for individuals who are undergoing hormonal therapy or those with a history of certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders.
How to do hormone testing accurately
Evaluating hormone levels through clinical labs is the most accurate way to perform hormone testing. However, if you are recommended to monitor your hormone levels daily, it is most convenient and accessible to do so using an at-home test kit. The accuracy of at-home test kits depends on the test kit, its quality, and the sample collection technique, and you must be sure to follow the testing schedule recommended by the manufacturer and your healthcare provider for the best results.
It is important to note that both clinical and at-home testing can be affected by conditions affecting hormone levels (such as diet and medications like steroids). Symptoms of hormonal imbalance also mimic those of other conditions, like adrenal insufficiency or certain types of cancers. For these reasons, you should be seen by a licensed medical professional who can provide a complete evaluation and clinical insights regarding your symptoms or other concerns.
While hormone tests are convenient and safe to do, results should always be checked and interpreted by a healthcare provider. Hormone test results can fluctuate for various reasons, including diet or use of certain medications. In addition, an abnormal result does not necessarily mean you have a condition of concern, and a regular result will not rule out potential concerns. Your healthcare provider may consider using additional tests, such as a blood exam, ultrasound, or MRI, to diagnose or rule out underlying issues. Always consult your healthcare provider with your concerns about or interests in hormone testing.
What are possible signs of a hormone imbalance?
A hormone imbalance can affect women and other people assigned female at birth due to various factors, including stress, diet, medications, and medical conditions. Common signs of a hormone imbalance include irregular periods, vaginal dryness, fatigue, and weight gain. If you're experiencing symptoms of concern, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
How are hormone levels checked?
Hormone levels can be checked through clinical testing or at-home test kits using a blood, urine, or saliva sample. Blood tests are the most commonly performed by a healthcare provider in an office or clinic. If you're considering using an at-home test kit, you should consult with a healthcare provider. A doctor can help determine the most appropriate testing method based on your specific needs.
Do hormone levels change throughout my menstrual cycle?
Yes. Your hormone levels can fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. For example, estrogen levels rise in the first half of the cycle, peaking just before ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase. Under the supervision of a healthcare provider, you can monitor your hormone levels at different points to gather important information about your cycle and identify any potential issues or imbalances.
Does stress affect the results of a female hormone test?
Yes. Stress can impact hormone levels, potentially affecting your hormone test results. Cortisol is a hormone released when you experience stress, and it can disrupt your normal hormonal balance. The effect of cortisol on your test varies by individual and the specific test type. Discuss any recent stress or significant life events with your healthcare providers.
- Cells. Progesterone actions and resistance in gynecological disorders.
- Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Sex Hormones and healthy psychological aging in women.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Women’s health.
- MedlinePlus. Aging changes in hormone production.
- StatPearls. Menopause: Diagnosis & management.