These days women are becoming conscious about menopause, even before they are years away from hitting that phase. As a result a new term 'perimenopause' has come into existence. Perimenopause is a phase when the woman has just begun to experience some of the early symptoms of menopause. Although, women around the age of 45 are termed as perimenopausal women, it is not uncommon for women above 38 years of age to experience some of the symptoms of menopause. FSH levels have become a reference point for identifying how far one is from hitting a menopause.
Significance of FSH Levels
FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone is an important hormone of endocrine system. It is released by the pituitary gland and plays a vital role in women's menstrual cycle. Every month, FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce a mature follicle or egg. Hence, their levels are usually high when the body begins to prepare for a menstrual cycle. After the release of egg, the levels of FSH decrease while those of estrogen increase. Depending upon the occurrence of fertilization, the body either prepares for a pregnancy or a period. However, this is the scenario only when one is experiencing regular menstrual cycle or while one is in their fertility age.
Once, women enter their forties, hormonal irregularities begin to occur. During this time, ovaries become strained and their function begins to diminish. They are no longer able to produce a mature egg every month. As mentioned above, the function of FSH and LH (luteinizing hormone) is to encourage the ovaries to produce follicles. When the ovaries fail to produce an egg, the levels of FSH and LH continue to surge. This is an attempt of the body to retain its fertility.
Perimenopause FSH Levels
Women in perimenopause age range experience some irregularities with their menstruation. The cycles are often longer with no ovulation or they may be extremely short with heavy bleeding. Apart from menstrual irregularities, other menopausal symptoms like insomnia, hot flashes, etc., may also surface. FSH and LH levels in perimenopause are often found to be high in comparison with levels of these hormones in menstruating women. However, they are not as high as in those women who have already reached a menopause.
Normal FSH levels in women are in a range of 5 to 25 mIU/ml. If they are more than 25 but less than 50, one is said to be in a perimenopausal phase. Menopausal women have FSH levels over 50 mIU/ml. Thus, the levels of FSH are highly indicative of how far one is from the impending menopause. However, one must not rely only on them to check for the menopause symptoms. These levels are subject to change due to certain external factors like stress, medications, as well as illnesses.
Detection of FSH Levels
Their detection has become easier with the home kits available at drug stores. These kits are inexpensive and extremely easy to use. On these kits, FSH levels can be detected by testing either saliva or urine. Urine testing is done with the help of a test stick which one is supposed to hold in their urine stream and then let it process until results show. Saliva test results cannot be evaluated at home. One needs to collect the sample and send it to the laboratory for analysis. The results of the test can be mailed back to the person.
There is a lot of debate in the medical community regarding the relation of follicle-stimulating hormone levels and the phase of a woman's cycle. While some practitioners discourage the use of hormonal tests for detecting the phase a woman lies in, others root for the effectiveness of these tests in indicating the same.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.