Women are wasting their time and money buying at-home menopause testing kits, doctors have warned.
The urine tests are not predictive enough to be able to tell if a woman is going through the phase when her periods stop, medics told the BBC.
Results from the tests could cause anxiety, confusion and possible unplanned pregnancies, according to the British Menopause Society, and manufacturers warn that the ktis should never replace medical advice.
Is there a test for menopause?
There is currently no simple test to confirm menopause or perimenopause, which is when you have symptoms before your periods have stopped.
However, a few companies do sell UK-approved menopause tests online and in stores which can be bought without a prescription, and cost around £10 for a pack of two.
The manufacturer of the SelfCheck Menopause test says that while menopause cannot be defined by a single simple test, hormonal imbalance is the most important indicator.
It is suggested that a constant high level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which helps to manage the menstrual cycle, could indicate that “the ovaries are not working” and “no egg production is happening”.
It says: “These kits bring a feeling of being in charge of your health by knowing your FSH levels and seeking medical help to combat any of them successfully”.
However, experts note that FSH levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and from month to month, so it is a poor indicator of menopause.
The company’s director, Dr John Rees, told BBC News: “Whatever the result, users of self-tests, including the SelfCheck Menopause test, are instructed to speak with their doctor before taking any action on the result.
“The instructions provided with the tests are reviewed and agreed with the regulators prior to approval for use.
“Self-test kits are not meant to replace traditional healthcare pathways but can prompt people to speak with their doctor about their health concerns whether they have a positive or negative result.”
A spokeswoman for the makers of another kit told the BBC: “The instructions for use claims only that ‘Flourish Menopause Test Kit can detect the presence of FSH in urine as soon as the concentration goes up from 25 mIU/mL [milli-international units per millilitre] and over’ and does not claim that the test directly diagnoses menopause process.
"It should be used as an indicator only in conjunction with other methods."
Are the tests accurate?
The tests accurately measure levels of FSH but experts say the result, which appears within minutes, is not a reliable marker of the menopause or perimenopause.
Dr Annice Mukherjee, a leading menopause and hormone doctor from the Society of Endocrinology, told the BBC the FSH urine tests were “another example of exploitation of midlife women by the commercial menopause industry”, and accured the companies of using misleading information about “FSH sometimes being a helpful marker of menopause”.
She said: “It’s not helpful for women to access [FSH] directly. It is not a reliable marker of perimenopause and can cause more confusion among women taking the test.
“At worst, misinterpretation of results can cause harm.”
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), and other leading women’s health experts, also say the tests can be unhelpful and potentially misleading, while NHS guidelines discourage FSH testing for women over 45 with classic menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, as it adds nothing diagnostically.
An RCOG spokesperson said: “The RCOG does not recommend over-the-counter menopause tests as they are not a good method of detecting menopause or perimenopause.”
Where can women get support?
The NHS recommends that women seek advice from a GP, nurse or pharmacist to help manage menopause or perimenopause symptoms.
NHS and private menopause specialists can also be found via the British Menopause Society online.
Psychological therapies, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help some women cope with menopausal and permimenopausal symptoms. You can get NHS psychological therapies without seeing a GP first.