Menopause is having a moment—which means it’s maybe more on your mind than ever. Now, if you’re curious to pinpoint your menopausal stage without booking a doctor’s appointment, a new at-home test from Clearblue might seem enticing. And yes, an at-home menopause test is a real thing, according to Clearblue, though there are other similar tests available too.
Priced around $30, the Clearblue test aims to gauge which stage of menopause you’re in (perimenopause, early menopause, late menopause or postmenopause) by measuring your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. But how does it work? And is it really effective? Let’s put this into perspective.
Traditionally, a doctor will likely check hormone levels and review your cycle history while reviewing symptoms to look for menopause, says Asima Ahmad, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist from Illinois who is also co-founder of Carrot Fertility. A diagnosis for menopause is typically made when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a period. But when looking for more information, doctors tend to look at a whole lot more than FSH levels to get the full picture, Dr. Ahmad tells Motherly.
Beyond that, family history can also play a role. Anna Barbieri, MD, a gynecology and menopause specialist in New York, points out that knowing when your mother entered menopause could provide useful insights. This is because the timing of onset can sometimes run in the family.
The Clearblue menopause test could be a convenient starting point—but remember, it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice. Here’s what else to know about menopause testing.
Are FSH levels an accurate way to diagnose menopause?
The Clearblue menopause test requires you to gather five urine samples over a 10-day span. It combines that with some information about your cycle and symptoms. There’s an app to help you interpret results. But is that enough to give you concrete insight into where you are, if you are indeed in menopause?
“The 99% accuracy rate they claim refers only to the FSH level in the moment in time that it was measured,” Dr. Barbieri points out. “Remember, the only time that FSH goes high and stays high is in the postmenopause phase—when it has been a full 12 months without a menstrual period.”
In that case, the test will be accurate. “However, that is when the test has the least utility because it is very easy for you or your doctor to know when it has been 12 months without a menstrual period. We don’t need any lab testing to tell us that!” she notes.
The test may be inaccurate if you’re using any form of hormonal birth control, are on another medication, are on hormone therapy, have PCOS, are pregnant or breastfeeding, Dr. Barbieri explains.
Someone who is perimenopausal or menopausal will tend to have elevated FSH levels, but there are other scenarios that cause those levels to be high or low. For example, the FSH levels rise and drop during the menstrual cycle itself. Also, some medications can elevate your FSH while others can drop it. In other cases, other medical conditions (for example, thyroid conditions) can mimic certain menopause symptoms, Dr. Ahmad says.
“I think it’s important to discuss your results with a doctor, particularly someone in that specialty—who specializes in menopause,” Dr. Ahmad says.
Dr. Barbieri agrees.
“Generally speaking, hormone tests [either blood, urine or saliva] are not helpful because hormone levels can fluctuate vastly throughout the menstrual cycle, sometimes on an hourly basis,” Dr. Barbieri says.
Related: Yep, you can get pregnant during perimenopause
Should I try the Clearblue menopause test?
If you’re seeing your doctor regularly (and they’re listening and answering your questions), the Clearblue test may be unnecessary, Dr. Ahmad notes.
It’s convenient that you can do the test in your own home without having a needle jab, but you may not be able to interpret the results in a big-picture way like a specialist could.
“For example, if the test turns out suggesting the person is in perimenopause, and the person is indeed not in perimenopause, it may cause some undue anxiety. Or, for example, if someone has new onset irregular menstrual cycles and the test is normal, it may miss other causes,” Dr. Ahmad says.
If you do choose to do at-home testing to determine if you are perimenopausal or menopausal, please make sure to then discuss your results with your doctor so that they can do further evaluation and counseling, she adds.
Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, tells Motherly it’s not important to determine what stage of menopause a woman is or isn’t in most of the time.
“What is important is whether or not a woman can still become pregnant, as that may guide treatment,” Dr. Faubion explains. If a woman can still become pregnant, the doctor may use a birth control pill instead of a menopausal hormone therapy regimen, Faubion says.
“Symptoms always guide treatment rather than a blood test,” she says. “Blood tests are rarely needed.”
Though knowing FSH levels may give you some insight into where you are menopause-wise, it may not be the best guide.
“The FSH test may be accurate, but the problem is that the FSH blood level is typically all over the place in perimenopause and may vary from one day to the next,” Dr. Faubion says. “It isn’t useful information and does not guide treatment in most cases.”
Related: Fatigue, hot flashes, insomnia—could it be perimenopause, or is it your thyroid?
How can I tell if I’m in menopause?
First off, even though menopause happens to most people with a uterus when they are over 50, you may have entered into perimenopause as early as your 30s. So it’s good to review your medical history regularly with your doctor. (And if they dismiss you for anything, please seek out another opinion.)
“If your provider isn’t giving you the answers you need, you need a new provider. Bottom line. This is true for menopause or any of the other myriad women’s health related issues for which providers seem to dismiss patients,” Dr. Barbieri says.
Related: Feeling dismissed by your doctor? Medical gaslighting can be common in women’s health
If you think you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, discuss your menstrual history, symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Dr. Ahmad says it’s good to ask for a referral to a menopause specialist if you want to get more answers. (The North American Menopause Society is a great place to look, Dr. Faubion notes.)
“The counseling and guidance around menopause and its management is just as important as the diagnosis,” Dr. Ahmad says.
“Menopause is a hot topic right now, and rightfully so,” Dr. Barbieri says.
“Innovation in this space is a long time coming, and we welcome it. However, companies making bold claims about products or services that radically change the game for women in menopause, without substantive evidence, should always be met with a pinch of skepticism,” Dr. Barbieri adds.
Asima Ahmad, MD, MPH, FACOG, is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist from Illinois who is also co-founder of Carrot Fertility.
Anna Barbieri, MD, FACOG, is a gynecology and menopause specialist in New York.
Stephanie S. Faubion, MD, MBA, is a professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.