Women are wasting their time and money buying do-at-home menopause testing kits, doctors have warned.
The urine tests are not predictive enough to tell whether a woman is going through the phase when her periods will stop, doctors have told the BBC.
Manufacturers told the broadcaster the kits should never replace medical advice. A few companies sell UK-approved menopause tests online and in shops, which can be bought without a prescription for about £10 for a pack of two.
The tests, which give a result within minutes, accurately measure levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which helps manage the menstrual cycle. But experts say it 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, who have financial conflicts of interest”.
She accused the companies of using misleading information about “FSH sometimes being a helpful marker of menopause” and called the perimenopause a “hormone rollercoaster”.
“It’s not helpful for women to access [FSH] directly,” she said. “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), along with other leading experts in women’s health, said the tests could be unhelpful and potentially misleading.
An RCOG spokesperson, the consultant gynaecologist Haitham Hamoda from King’s College hospital, who chairs the British Menopause Society, said: “The RCOG does not recommend over-the-counter menopause tests as they are not a good method of detecting menopause or perimenopause.”
NHS guidelines also discourage FSH testing for over-45s with classic menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes because it adds nothing diagnostically.
The manufacturer of the SelfCheck Menopause test says while menopause cannot be defined by a single simple test, hormonal imbalance is the most important indicator. And a constant high FSH level may indicate “the ovaries are not working” and “no egg production is happening”.
“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,” it says.
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.”