“I need to get my hormones checked, what tests should I go for?”
This is a reasonable and smart question to ask when your debilitating periods force you to take time off work or else constantly medicate to make it through a day at the office. In fact, many hormone experts say that testing is step #1 when it comes to getting results, and I certainly agree with them.
We’re all on the same page and from my experience I can tell you that a hormone imbalance is usually the underlying cause of serious menstrual issues. The good news is that hormone balance and period pain relief go hand in hand and it is totally possible to achieve both with a holistic, natural approach.
Unfortunately, getting a clear picture of hormones isn’t as easy as going for tests. If you’ve got bad period pain and you want answers from your medical doctor, you’re likely to get chewed up and spat out on the other side with no answers.
At this point you feel like you’re back at square one. You resign yourself to taking pain meds every month because you can’t miss another day of work.
I don’t want this to happen to you.
The truth is there’s a right way and a wrong way to pursue hormone testing. One way, leads to frustration and the other way leads to clarity and results.
In this article, I’ll go over the common barriers that I see come up when women request hormone testing. Then I’ll explain my step-by-step approach to getting hormone test results that you can take action on.
Barriers to Hormone Testing
First off, here are 3 barriers that women face when they pursue hormone testing.
#1 The doctor refuses.
It can be hard to get a doctor to listen and grant permission for hormone testing. Oftentimes doctors will ask that the pill be tried first. I spoke to a woman who told me that her doctor wouldn’t request testing because she wasn’t menopausal yet. I find that this is less likely to happen when evidence is provided. Keep a record so that you have proof of the duration and intensity of your symptoms. When you communicate how long this has been going on and how much of an impact it has on your life, the doctor should be more understanding. If not, you may need to find a doctor that has a different school of thought.
#2 The results are ‘normal’.
Your results are in and you’re back in the doctor’s office ready to get to the bottom of your terrible period pain. But the doc explains to you that all your hormones are within the normal range and there’s nothing they can do for you (except recommend the pill of course).
What?? This has happened to so many women and it always leads to feelings of defeat and frustration. Firstly, it’s important to understand that hormone levels in the ‘normal range’ may still be the underlying cause of your painful periods. I’ll discuss this more in the next section. In addition, the hormones that are causing you problems may not have been tested. For example, it is common to test TSH although it is one of many thyroid hormones. TSH levels may be in the normal range but T3, another thyroid hormone, might not be.
#3 They treat the symptom.
So maybe your results come back and show that your hormones are out of balance. However, instead of looking for the underlying cause of the hormone imbalance, the doctor prescribes something to treat the symptom. For example, if you have low progesterone they might recommend you try progesterone cream. Or they might prescribe the pill AGAIN!
Thankfully the testing has provided you with some knowledge but you still don’t have the support you’re looking for. This may lead you to the same DIY / trial and error route as before, you are going to get nowhere.
It’s not hard to see how the traditional approach to hormone testing won’t work if you have a packed schedule… you’re not going to get anywhere and you’ll be stuck with your symptoms. And there’s no denying that painful, heavy periods, low sex drive, mood swings, sore breasts and acne are all signs that there’s something going on. You need to allocate your resources effectively, invest wisely, and be strategic if you want to see results.
So if you’re committed to treating the underlying cause of your painful periods to restore your health and get relief, here is what we suggest you do:
The Savvy Woman’s Guide To Hormone Testing
#1 Find a practitioner.
You need to work with a professional who specializes in periods and hormones. They should have a comprehensive approach to healing that involves nutrition, lifestyle, supplements and/or other custom protocol.
This pro could be a functional medical doctor, a nurse practitioner, naturopathic doctor, nutritionist or a health coach. However, a naturopath or practitioner that relies heavily on supplements isn’t enough to heal the root of your hormone imbalance. The important thing is that they specialize in and have had success treating other women with similar issues.
This is exactly what we do with our clients in the Complete Period Relief Solution. If you’d like to inquire about how to work with us, contact us at [email protected]
# 2 Get tested based on your symptoms.
After you’ve got practitioner that has your back, then you can move forward with testing based on your symptoms. For example, if you have heavy painful periods you may need to get progesterone and thyroid hormones tested. If you have low sex drive, your practitioner might request that testosterone levels are checked. Depending on your symptoms, you may also want to see a full blood panel. You go to your medical doctor with an informed list of tests that you want. Your practitioner will be able to give a second opinion and help interpret the results, even if they’re in the normal range, in the context of your symptoms which will help them reach a diagnosis.
Pro tip- if you are testing progesterone levels you should go for the test between day 19-21 of your cycle.
# 3 Consider the DUTCH test.
No this isn’t a test to check for Dutch heritage. DUTCH stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones and it’s the gold standard hormone test. The results of this test provide information that you can’t get from blood or saliva tests. Urine samples taken at intervals reveal how well your body breaks down hormones and moves them out of the body. The thing is, if estrogen isn’t doesn’t break down properly it can be reabsorbed into the body and increase growths like fibroids and even the cancer risk in some women. This is something that is only possible for you to test from a DUTCH test. This will allow for more effective and accurate supplements.
A DUTCH test may not be necessary based on your symptoms and this is another reason why you need to work with a practitioner. If they determine it would be beneficial, you will likely have to pay for this advanced hormone test yourself or you may be able to use your health spending account. However, it is completely worth it because the test results are often the difference between staying ‘in the dark’ and getting clarity around your hormones.
Of course, you want your trusted practitioner to interpret and provide recommendations based on the results. The DUTCH test itself isn’t the be-all and end-all but it will help your practitioner select the right kind of supplement, which will prevent you from peeing all your high quality supplements down the toilet!
Hormone testing is not as straightforward as we’d like it to be. And approaching testing with your doctor in the wrong way can lead you off the path to period pain relief. Follow our Savvy Woman’s Guide: do your groundwork first and find a practitioner to lead you through the process. While you’re killing it at the office, the practitioner will request the appropriate tests, interpret them in the context of your symptoms, and prescribe a holistic protocol to heal the underlying cause of your pain.
In the Complete Period Relief Solution, we help our women easily navigate the ins and outs of hormone testing and protocols for a pain-free, symptom-free period. If you’d like to inquire about how to work with us, contact us at [email protected]