FSH Test Kits

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(Contribution from Carolyn Givens, M.D. )

Periodically, patients in my practice have questions about FSH urine tests, as they have noticed that there are FSH urine test kits for sale over-the-counter to help women confirm the onset of menopause. Additionally, they wonder that since FSH testing is involved in determining fertility reserve, can they use this over-the-counter FSH test to help realize their fertility potential. My colleague, Carolyn Givens was kind enough to share her insight on this topic:

It appears as if a fair number of over-the-counter FSH test kits are indeed sold in drug stores and over the Internet. I am not going to comment on their efficacy for measuring hormonal changes that the pre menopausal body starts to undergo. But I can answer your question. These test kits are not useful tools to help you determine your fertility potential.

By way of background, human follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) produced by the pituitary gland stimulates primordial follicular growth and estrogen production by the emerging follicle that will mature into an egg.

The urine test kits provide a black or white - yes or no answer, not a glimpse of your FSH level in the context of a gray scale range of indicators. For accurate fertility potential diagnosis, we analyze FSH level in much more detail. On day two or day three of your cycle (following menses) we test your FSH level in conjunction with other tests including estradiol (E2) and an antral follicle count.

Most home urine tests, such as for pregnancy tests and ovulation predictor tests, use a threshold level of the hormone in the urine to detect a positive. With FSH test kits, only when the level reaches menopausal levels of FSH, equivalent to around 40-50 mIU/mL or higher in the bloodstream, will the test turn “positive.” For most women interested in testing for ovarian reserve, we would be looking for levels equivalent to 5-20 mIU/mL. So the sensitivity of the testing is set for menopausal and post-menopausal levels, not the levels seen in women with regular menstrual cycles. By the same token, they will not be able to discriminate normal from decreased ovarian reserve.
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About the Author

Dr. Herbert is a fertility expert and an innovator in the field.

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