Hormone imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms. Most of these symptoms are vague and non-specific, such as fatigue or difficulty sleeping; the most common complaint is “I don’t feel like myself.” However, the only way to pinpoint the cause of these vague symptoms is to test your hormone levels. In this article we will cover which choice is more appropriate for you to make and what should you look after when trying to decide.
There are a number of at-home tests available to test hormone levels:
- Thyroid hormone tests
- Tests for perimenopause/menopause
- Female fertility tests
- Comprehensive male hormone panels
- Comprehensive female hormone panels
How Does At-home Testing Work?
In general, when you order a home hormone balance test kit, first, the company will ask you to list your symptoms and reasons for testing. Next, a doctor will review your answers and approve your test. Then, the company will mail the test kit to you.
The test kit will ask you to collect a blood sample with a finger-prick device. Most test kits will also ask you to collect a saliva sample or perhaps a urine sample. Then, you package your samples, following the instructions carefully, and mail the kit to the testing laboratory.
Once your results come in, the company will contact you. Most of these companies have a doctor contact you by phone, chat, or email to explain your results and provide suggestions as to your next steps.
Laboratory testing for hormone imbalances is a normal process. First, you discuss your symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Next, a technician collects the test samples, such as venous blood from your arm. When the results come in, your doctor discusses them with you and provides suggestions as to your next steps.
Pros and Cons of At-home Testing
Pros of at-home testing:
- It is convenient
- It is simple and private
- You have full control over the process
Cons of at-home testing:
- You may not actually need to be tested
- Your insurance company will probably not cover the cost of the test
- There are concerns about the accuracy of at-home tests
- There is a lack of full counseling from a doctor about what your test results mean
- Your doctor will probably insist upon laboratory testing to confirm your results before prescribing any treatment
The concerns about the accuracy of at-home tests are extensive but may be unwarranted. For example, most of these tests use saliva samples, and while some doctors think this approach is inaccurate, it has been proven to be as good as or possibly better than blood testing for some hormones.
The FDA carefully explains that while at-home tests will detect your hormone levels accurately, your hormone levels cannot be used to accurately determine your certain status, only specific ones.
Pros and Cons of Laboratory Testing
Pros of laboratory testing:
- Your insurance will cover the cost
- Your doctor will guide you through the process and the next steps
- The test will be comprehensive and accurate
Cons of laboratory testing:
- You have to travel to your doctor’s office to get tested
- You have to convince your doctor you need to be tested
- The testing process is not private or under your control
This option is not fit for those who have a busy schedule ahead of their week and cannot spare much time on activities that do not impact them directly at the moment. It is also an uncomfortable process for those who are private and want to keep their information confidential.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it is you who has to decide whether you want to take the at-home route or not. At-home tests for hormone imbalances can be convenient, private, and informative. In addition, they can provide you with peace of mind when they come back negative and trigger active treatment when they come back positive, and soon you will feel like yourself again.