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.
“For example, progesterone levels are usually tested during the luteal phase, which is often days 5-7 of one’s cycle, in order to get the most accurate reading,” board-certified OB/GYN Shoma Datta-Thomas, M.D., FACOG tells mindbodygreen.
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: