Few stages in life are more significant for a woman than the menopause. It is not just that her child-bearing years will have gone; it also brings a range of other effects including mental impacts such as depression and brain fog, as well as physical issues such as hot flushes, difficulty sleeping and palpitations.
All this comes after the perimenopause, the time when symptoms such as irregular periods start to appear, which itself is a sign the change may be coming.
Some might contend that women have had to deal with these things since time immemorial, but that can be said of so many other medical things; the fact is that there is much that can be done to make this process easier.
A pharmacy blood test can be very useful in helping to establish if you have reached the menopause. This may be useful for women who are using hormonal contraception, as such medication can mask tell-tale symptoms.
The test can help establish if you have low levels of oestrogen, or higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone, which govern ovarian function. Tests will not always be foolproof, for these hormone levels can vary for other reasons, but it could be a good indicator of the onset of menopause.
Because there is some uncertainty, it may be that if, for instance, you have a test showing raised FSH, a second blood test carried out six weeks later may be needed to check is still the case, in which instance it will be easier to establish if you are in the menopause.
This would not just be relevant for contraceptive matters, as it would also mean that you and your GP could start monitoring for other symptoms connected with menopause such as those mentioned above, vaginal dryness and muscle aches.
By establishing if you are in the menopause, it will be easier to diagnose and prescribe accordingly to ensure that you can manage this stage of life as well as possible.