You’re at your annual appointment, talking to your doctor about how you just aren’t feeling like yourself lately.
You’ve been feeling guilty for screaming at the kids because they left their book bags in the middle of the floor. One minute you think your husband is the best guy ever, the next minute you can’t believe you actually married the barbarian. A couple of hours later he’s back to being a pretty good guy again. Quite honestly, he doesn’t know what to do with you, and you’re not sure what to do with yourself! You know this is not you. It really doesn’t feel normal. Maybe it’s your hormones?
It seems like a simple request, “Could you just check my hormone levels to make sure everything is ok?”.
Here are some common responses women have told me they got from their doctor:
“We don’t do that”
“You aren’t old enough to have a hormone problem”
“Just try these birth control pills”
“Here are some antidepressants”
Maybe you’re lucky enough that your doctor does measure at least some of your hormones. More often than not, you’ll just be told that everything looks normal. If everything is so normal, why are you feeling off? How frustrating!
We know that approximately 30% of women have a hormone imbalance, and 100% of women go through menopause (some with more symptoms than others), so why is it so hard to have your hormone levels tested to see what’s going on in your body?
5 reasons most doctors aren’t so eager to measure your hormone levels
1. Doctors are trained that if your labs are in the “normal” range, you are normal. The normal lab ranges are very wide – unless you have a tumor (which you probably don’t because those are rare) you will probably land somewhere in the normal range. That doesn’t mean it is normal for you, or that your levels are ‘optimal’ or balanced. It just means that you probably don’t have a tumor. Good to know, but not very helpful. For example, many labs start the normal range for testosterone at 0. So you could have practically zero testosterone in your body (and zero interest in sex), and you technically would still be considered “normal”.
2. If you are pre-menopausal, your hormone levels change over the month. They are low while you are on your period and until you ovulate in the middle of the month. At ovulation, your estrogen level spikes up. Then for the next 2 weeks until your period, your progesterone levels are higher. It is absolutely critical to know where you are in your cycle, otherwise the lab results are meaningless. It is not enough to just have your blood drawn on the random Thursday afternoon that you happen to have your annual doctor’s appointment.
3. If you have functioning ovaries, but aren’t having periods, this can make things tricky because we can’t know where you are in your “cycle”. For example, if you have an IUD, have had a uterine ablation (a procedure where the lining of your uterus has been treated to reduce bleeding), a partial hysterectomy (they took out your uterus, but left at least one ovary), or if your periods are very irregular and unpredictable – then how can you know WHEN in your “cycle” to do the test? While complicated, it is not impossible to get the right information, but most doctors don’t even bother to try.
4. If you are menopausal, the lab changes the normal ranges! Menopausal women typically have lower hormone levels, so they just lower the lab range. Even if your hormone levels have dropped very low (and you feel tired, cranky, have painful sex, have to write everything down on sticky notes and haven’t slept for months), you’ll come back “normal” on the test.
5. Your doctor is responsible for interpreting the test results and then treating you appropriately. Unfortunately, in medical school they simply didn’t teach us what we need to know to help you! We were taught to give you birth control pills if you are less than 45, and hormone replacement therapy if you are older than 45 (with or without a side of antidepressants, based on how much you are complaining). We are taught to prescribe “the pill” without measuring your hormone levels, because the pill basically turns off your hormones and replaces them with synthetic drugs that mimic your hormones. If that’s not what you want (and another day we can talk about why that may not be the best choice), they don’t have other options. So why would they bother measuring your hormone levels?
It’s not your doctor’s fault. This is how they were trained, and it’s all they know. It was all I knew – until my own hormone issues led me to learn a completely different approach to women’s health.
By measuring your hormone levels, we can learn what’s going on in your body and explain a lot about how you are feeling. We can also get to work to get your hormones back into balance so you can sleep soundly, wake up feeling refreshed, have patience with your kids, and enjoy intimacy with your spouse. You can get back to feeling like yourself again!
If your doctor isn’t able or willing to help you, don’t give up! Look for a doctor trained in Functional Medicine – they’ll help you get to the root cause of your symptoms and get your hormones back in balance so you can get WELL, get OFF prescription medicines, and LOVE the way you feel!
Yours in health!
PS: If you’d like more help, here are a few ways we can help you.
- To learn about becoming a patient at Signature Wellness, schedule a free consultation with one of our Patient Coordinators at 704-752-9346 or schedule online here.
- Follow me on facebook @signaturewellnessNC or instagram @drdebmatthew for more info about hormone health and ways to naturally balance your hormones.
- Read my book, This is NOT Normal! A Busy Woman’s Guide to Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance for more information, including quizzes to see if your hormones are out of whack. You can get a copy on Amazon or download a free e-book at IsItYourHormones.com