Here's Why At-Home Hormone Tests Are Best Used When Recommended by a Doctor

If you're interested in learning more about your hormone levels, you might be tempted to order an at-home hormone test and get the ball rolling for yourself without even leaving the house. Depending on your specific health concerns, at-home hormone tests can sometimes be very helpful tools, but using one doesn't necessarily take the place of an in-person visit to your doctor.

Ahead, find out why it's important to have a firm understanding of the function of at-home hormone tests, why you need to be discerning when shopping for one, and more.

How Do At-Hormone Tests Work?

Google "at-home hormone tests," and you'll find a variety of options that are designed specifically for testing hormones related to fertility, stress hormone levels, thyroid function, and more. Most of the tests you'll find online, like those made by the company Everlywell, collect either blood via a finger prick or saliva. According to Sanaz Ghazal, MD, FACOG, co-founder of Rise Fertility, some at-home fertility hormone tests even analyze hormone levels in urine. Therefore, how your test works really depends on the specific hormones that are being assessed.

Most at-home hormone tests outline exactly what happens to the specimen when it's sent on its way. For example, Everlywell notes that its tests are sent to certified labs and results are returned to you with information on what they may mean or indicate.

Are At-Home Hormone Tests Ever Recommended by Doctors?

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, one of the best places to start is by scheduling an appointment with your doctor. Linda R. Peitzman, MD, lead physician in primary care at K Health, a data-driven digital primary-care platform, said home testing does provide some benefits, including having more control over your health and generally being convenient. However, you should speak with your doctor to determine what type of testing is best for your specific condition or issue. This will help ensure the test you take has meaning and is appropriate.

Likewise, speaking specifically to at-home fertility hormone tests, Dr. Ghazal said they are best used in conjunction with counseling and guidance from a board-certified fertility specialist. In addition to helping explain the results and what they mean for your health, this specialist can guide you to additional tests you might need to provide a full understanding of what's going on within your body. In the case of fertility, Dr. Ghazal said many factors, like age, genetics, lifestyle, and medical history, can affect one's ability to conceive.

One of the other main concerns with self-ordering at-home hormone tests, Dr. Peitzman said, is the potential of false positives. "Most lab tests are meant to be ordered for patients that are having specific symptoms or are in specific risk categories. The ranges of results on nonsymptomatic or lower-risk patients have not really been studied and are not understood," she said. "So if a person who does not have symptoms and is not at high risk for the problem gets an abnormal test result, the meaning of that result may not be clear. It can lead healthy patients to getting other, more invasive testing or treatment done that could then cause harm."

If you do order an at-home test, you'll also need to ensure it's being sent to an accredited lab to ensure accuracy. So no matter why you're interested in hormonal testing, speaking to a medical professional seems to be one of the best places to start.