What Is Hormone Testing for Women?

Hormones are substances that send chemical messages in the body and have a variety of effects on processes like physical development, reproduction, and mood.

People of any sex have a wide range of hormones in their body. Hormone testing for women and people assigned female at birth often focuses on hormones that play a role in puberty, fertility, menopause, and health conditions more common in this population.

Hormone testing may be used for a variety of purposes in women and people assigned female at birth. Hormone tests for women can be used to confirm pregnancy, track menopause, detect hormonal imbalances, and understand the cause of reproductive health issues.

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The Role of Hormone Tests for Women

Women and people assigned female at birth can have hormone testing for many different reasons. Hormone testing may be used for diagnosis, monitoring, and screening:

  • Diagnosis: Hormone testing is often used to identify the cause of a person’s symptoms. Testing may be helpful in diagnosing conditions like delayed development, infertility, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and certain types of tumors.
  • Monitoring: After someone has been diagnosed with a medical condition, ongoing testing may be used to track any changes in their health, including whether treatments are effective. A hormone test for women may be used to monitor people who are having treatments for infertility or cancer. Testing can also help monitor hormone levels in transgender women who are having gender-affirming hormone treatment.
  • Screening: Occasionally, hormone testing may be used for screening, which is looking for health issues before there are any signs or symptoms. For example, testing for certain hormones may be performed during pregnancy to screen for potential fetal health problems. In addition, women and people assigned female at birth who are of childbearing age may have hormone tests to see if they are pregnant prior to surgery or admission to a hospital. Pregnancy tests may also be done before incarceration.

Who should get testing?

Hormone testing in women and people assigned female at birth is most often ordered when a patient has symptoms that suggest a possible hormonal imbalance.

Because hormones affect so many bodily systems, hormonal imbalances can result in a wide range of symptoms. Doctors may suggest hormone testing in patients with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Signs of menopause like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and/or trouble sleeping in people under the age of 40
  • Difficulty becoming or staying pregnant
  • Signs of pregnancy such as a missed period, tender breasts, nausea, and frequent urination
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding including menstrual periods that are longer than usual or bleeding between periods
  • Absent or irregular menstrual periods
  • Acne
  • Abnormal hair growth

Hormone testing is also used to detect thyroid conditions, which are more common in women and people assigned female at birth. Symptoms of thyroid conditions that may lead to hormone testing include:

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling cold
  • Mood changes
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Feeling very tired
  • Slow or irregular heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes to skin or hair

Hormone testing may also be suggested if you have previously had health conditions related to hormonal imbalances. People receiving medical care to change hormone levels may have ongoing hormone tests to monitor their response to treatment.

It is important to talk with a doctor if you have any signs of a hormone imbalance or other concerns about your hormone levels. A doctor can help determine whether hormone testing is appropriate and which hormone panel tests to perform.

Getting test results

Your health care provider may call to share your hormone test results with you, or you may be able to access them through an online portal. You may wish to make an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your hormone test results, which are usually available within a few business days.

In many situations, your health care provider will consider the findings from hormone tests along with other test results. It is often the pattern of test results, rather than a single result, that enables your health care provider to determine the cause of your symptoms. For this reason, your doctor may also wait until all test results are available before reviewing them with you.

Types of Hormone Tests for Women

Women and people assigned female at birth may have many different kinds of hormone tests. The following sections describe some of the most common tests related to female sex hormones or to conditions that generally affect women and people assigned female at birth.

Menopause tests

Menopause refers to the time when a person with a uterus stops menstruating. Menopause typically begins with perimenopause, the time leading up to the last menstrual period. During perimenopause, hormone levels change rapidly, causing irregular periods along with symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings.

The transition to menopause typically lasts for two to eight years. A person is considered post-menopausal one year after their last menstrual period.

Menopause can often be identified based on a person’s health history and symptoms. However, hormone testing may be used to determine or confirm menopause in certain people, including:

  • People with premature menopause, which means the permanent end of menstruation before age 40
  • People with menstrual disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • People using oral contraception
  • Women and anyone born with a uterus who has had treatments such as surgery to remove the uterus or to alter the uterine lining

The following hormone tests may be used to identify menopause:

Fertility tests

Hormone tests may be performed if a couple has problems getting or staying pregnant, usually after six months to a year of trying. Testing may take place sooner if there are known health issues that may affect fertility.

More details, including about the hormone tests that may be used in evaluating fertility in women and people with a uterus, are available in our article on fertility testing.

Pregnancy tests

Checking to see if someone is pregnant is done by testing for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone is produced by the placenta, a temporary organ that nourishes the fetus during pregnancy.

Either blood or urine may be tested for hCG. Typically, blood tests are more accurate and can detect pregnancy as early as six days after ovulation.

More information is available in our article on the pregnancy test (hCG).

Thyroid tests

The thyroid is a small gland that makes hormones that are important for the body’s metabolism. Thyroid diseases can affect anyone but are more common in women and people assigned female at birth, especially after pregnancy or menopause.

The following table shows hormone tests that may be used to detect or rule out thyroid disease:

Some people may have a thyroid panel test, which measures TSH, T3, and T4 using the same blood sample. More information about tests to evaluate the thyroid can be found in our guide to thyroid function testing.

Polycystic ovary syndrome tests

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by a hormonal imbalance. In PCOS, women or people assigned female at birth tend to have high levels of male sex hormones known as androgens.

Symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual periods, infertility, acne, abnormal hair growth, and ovarian cysts. A health care provider may suggest the following hormone tests to help diagnose PCOS:

Puberty testing

Puberty is the time when girls and people assigned female at birth start producing more female sex hormones. These hormones cause the body to go through changes including breast development, the growth of pubic hair, and the start of menstrual periods.

When these physical changes begin before age eight, it is considered to be early puberty, also known as precocious puberty. If these changes have not begun by the age of 13, puberty is considered delayed.

The tests in the following table may be prescribed to check hormone levels in people with either early or delayed puberty.

Other hormone tests

Other hormone tests are prescribed based on a person’s condition, including their symptoms and health history. Examples of other hormones that may be measured include:

Getting Hormone Testing

Hormone testing for women and people assigned female at birth may be ordered by a primary care physician, obstetrician/gynecologist (OB-GYN), or another doctor like an endocrinologist or fertility specialist.

Tests that require blood or urine samples may take place at a doctor’s office, clinic, laboratory, or hospital. When testing requires 24-hour urine collection, the sample is typically collected at home and brought to a laboratory.

At-home testing

Commercial kits are available that offer at-home hormone testing and hormone tests available online for women and people assigned female at birth. These at-home tests include:

  • At-home thyroid testing
  • At-home fertility testing
  • At-home polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) testing
  • At-home pregnancy testing

More information about at-home options is available in our article about at-home hormone testing.

It is important to work with a health care provider to diagnose or monitor any health condition including infertility, thyroid disease, PCOS, or pregnancy. At-home tests and online hormone tests should not be used as a substitute for working with a health care provider.

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