When Is The Best Time To Test Your Hormones? Experts Answer
Women can test their hormones for a number of reasons, including detecting hormonal imbalances and fertility concerns. However, taking a hormone test on a random day of your cycle and assessing those numbers without considering natural fluctuations can cause undue panic.
Since hormone testing kits are now available for at-home use, it's especially important to understand the significance of timing when it comes to these tests. Here, women's health experts share the best time to test your hormones and how to interpret the results.
When is the best time to test your hormones?
Unfortunately, there's not one perfect time to test your hormones because it depends on many factors like birth control, symptoms of concern, cycle consistency, and so on.
That being said, not everyone has access to free hormone testing through their physician, and at-home tests can be expensive, so it's important to time your testing to get the most bang for your buck.
Testing at different parts of the cycle will trigger different results depending on which hormones are naturally at their peak. This means that a perfectly healthy person could have "imbalanced" hormones when testing during certain phases of their cycle.
Medication will also impact your results, so ask your doctor about what to expect if you're on any medication. And yes, this nuance applies to both those on and off birth control pills as well.
As a general rule, those who are not on hormonal birth control should avoid testing during the beginning of the follicular phase (which starts on the first day of your period and lasts around 16 days).
"In a healthy adult woman with regular menstrual cycles, the levels of estrogen and progesterone will be extremely low at the beginning of the follicular phase of her cycle," board-certified integrative medicine doctor and author of the upcoming book The Hormone Shift, Taz Bhatia, M.D., tells mindbodygreen.
She adds, "During this time, these hormone levels may closely mimic those of a menopausal woman, even if her ovaries are still functioning."
So, any testing conducted during this phase of the menstrual cycle might not represent accurate results. This doesn't mean there's no reason to ever test during this phase, but you should keep the base levels in mind when viewing your results and try to avoid that period if you can.
As for those on oral birth control, Bhatia recommends testing during the week of your placebo pills between days 19 and 21 of your cycle.
If you visit your doctor with certain symptoms that correlate with one specific hormone being out of balance, then these dates may shift to get a snapshot of that specific hormone.
Estrogen levels can also be tested during the luteal phase, Bhatia says. "Assessing your estrogen levels, particularly in relation to progesterone during the luteal phase, can help you determine if your symptoms, such as weight gain, irritability, and heavy periods, are associated with estrogen dominance."
As Thomas notes, testing non-sex hormones like cortisol and thyroid should be done in the morning.
Here's a quick summary of the best times to test different hormones, as an easy reference:
- Progesterone: One week after ovulation
- Estrogen: During the luteal phase
- Thyroid, cortisol, and testosterone: In the morning at any point during the cycle
- Insulin: After fasting
But still, your physician may decide to take your test during different windows depending on your symptoms or concerns. Your doctor may also suggest taking multiple tests to compare your hormones during different phases of the cycle and then compare your results to a standard hormone fluctuation.
Even if your doctor does not provide testing, they can help you narrow down the best window to test for any symptoms, concerns, or menstrual irregularities you're dealing with.
Should you test your hormones while on birth control?
While birth control pills will impact the results of your hormone test, they won't necessarily deem it useless.
"The advantage of hormone testing while on the pill also allows us to understand how your body is metabolizing hormones," Bhatia says.
That said, you should expect some imbalances in your results.
"Hormonal birth control, like a combination estrogen and progesterone birth control pill, will be expected to reflect very low natural estrogen and progesterone levels as you are receiving a synthetic supply of these hormones," Thomas explains.
Your results will vary depending on your birth control pill so, again, it's best to consult your doctor before you test to narrow down an ideal window and know what imbalances to expect from the pill.
What about if your cycle is irregular?
An irregular cycle is one of the most common signs of a hormone imbalance, but it can make it more confusing when it comes to testing your hormones as well. Don't let this discourage you from testing, though.
"With an irregular cycle, it is hard to know when to time testing—I recommend starting by just getting a test done and then working with your doctor to hone in on next steps," Thomas says.
There are still standard deviations for hormone levels even if you're not entirely sure where you're at in your cycle, so getting a test as the first step will give you a jumping-off point for future tests.
If you do hormone testing through your physician, they may suggest completing a few different tests to get the full picture before assuming imbalances as well. Even if your cycle feels irregular, your hormones will still shift throughout the month, and you should be mindful of potential spikes and dips.
Why you shouldn't jump to conclusions when testing your hormones
As you can tell, testing your hormones is quite a nuanced process. For this reason, it's important to see your results as a starting point and make sure you consult your physician, even if you complete an at-home test.
Otherwise, you may find yourself sparking anxiety about an imbalance that doesn't exist or a natural hormonal fluctuation. When in doubt, consult an expert.
If you want to learn more about what an at-home test entails, head over to my first-hand review of the Veracity Hormone Wellness Test here.
Testing your hormones is a great step to assessing balance, but it can be misleading if you test at certain points in your cycle without considering the natural fluctuations of hormones or consulting an expert. If you're interested in at-home testing, check out these expert-approved testing kits.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.