What is a Sex Hormone test? 

A sex hormone test is used to measure the levels of three chief sex hormones in the body, namely, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. 

In men, testosterone is secreted by Leydig cells in testes and helps in the growth of sex organs and secondary sexual characters (hair on the face and pubic area, etc.). Testosterone is also produced in a small amount by ovaries in women.

Oestrogen is an important sex hormone, which is produced by ovaries in women, and in small amounts in adrenal glands and testes in men. It travels in three different forms in blood and is responsible for the changes in female body during puberty, the onset of monthly cycles, growth of female sexual characters; it is also essential for maintaining pregnancy

Progesterone is yet another female hormone that is produced by ovaries. In pregnant women, placenta also produces progesterone, which is necessary for preserving the pregnancy. In men, progesterone is produced by adrenal glands and it is essential for the production of other male hormones.

Pituitary gland in the brain helps in the regulation of sex hormones secreted by the sex organs in both men and women. Sometimes, follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin hormone and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone are also included in sex hormone test, particularly along with the progesterone test, to evaluate conditions, such as infertility, hypogonadism and premature puberty.

  1. Why is a Sex Hormone test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Sex Hormone test?
  3. How is a Sex Hormone test performed?
  4. What do Sex Hormone test results indicate?

A sex hormone test is carried out to diagnose various conditions and disorders that are related to the reproductive system of the body in both men and women. The test is advised in the following conditions:

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No special preparations are needed for this test. 

  • Fasting is not essential for a sex hormone test
  • Tests involving radioactive substances performed within 1 week of the test (progesterone) can give false results; hence, the sex hormone test should be avoided in such scenarios
  • However, the person undergoing a sex hormone test should inform their doctor about medicines that he/she is taking regularly. These include steroids, antiepilepsy medicines, antidepressants, hormonal drugs (oral contraceptives, oestrogen therapy and progesterone therapy), blood-thinning medicines (aspirin), anticancer drugs, antibiotics or antifungal drugs

These medicines should not be taken for two days before the test.

  • For a progesterone test, the patient should provide correct information regarding the gestation period of pregnancy or the duration of pregnancy and date of the last monthly cycle
  •  An individual undergoing a sex hormone test should also provide appropriate information to their doctor about his or her alcohol intake

Special instructions to the person who is undergoing a sex hormone test include the following:

  • A 24-hour urine sample is used for measuring the levels of oestrogen in the form of estradiol. For this test, the patient would be given a container in which they’ll have to collect a urine sample every time they pass urine, for 24 hours
  • The patient should be instructed to keep the collected urine from impurities, such as tissue paper
  • A blood sample for the sex hormone test is drawn from a vein in the arm of the patient
  • For a testosterone test (free and total), blood should be collected at 7 am when the level of testosterone hormone is high
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Normal results

  • Total oestrogen in the blood
    • Female, premenopausal: 23-261 picograms per millilitre (pg/mL)
    • Female, postmenopausal: <30 pg/mL
    • Male: <50 pg/mL
  • Total oestrogen in the urine
    • Female, premenopausal: 15-80 micrograms/24 hours
    • Female, postmenopausal: <20 micrograms/24 hours
    • Male: 15-40 micrograms/24 hours 
  • Progesterone
    • Female, follicular phase of the menstrual cycle: < 1.0 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL)
    • Female, luteal phase of the menstrual cycle: 2.0-20.0 ng/mL
    • Female, postmenopausal: ≤1.1 ng/mL
    • Male: 1.2 ng/mL
  • Testosterone (free)
    • Male: 9.0-30.0 ng/dL
    • Female: 0.3-1.9 ng/dL
  • Testosterone (total)
    • Male: 300-1200 ng/dL
    • Female: 8-60 ng/dL

Abnormal results

High levels of oestrogen are seen in conditions such as tumour in the ovary, premature puberty and Klinefelter’s syndrome. Oestrogen levels are also high during pregnancy and ovulation.

Decreased oestrogen levels are present in conditions such as absence of monthly cycles, heavy exercising, under-developed or complete lack of development of sex organs, abnormality in the functioning of the pituitary gland, ovarian failure, Stein-Leventhal syndrome, Turner’s syndrome and menopause.

Increased levels of progesterone indicate conditions such as tumour of the adrenal gland, tumour in ovaries, abnormal pregnancy (molar pregnancy) and premature puberty.

Decreased progesterone levels signify the risk of miscarriage, lack of development or abnormality in the functioning of sex organs, irregular menstrual periods, Turner’s syndrome and high-risk of miscarriage.

High testosterone levels are observed in conditions, such as adrenal gland tumour, premature puberty, Cushing’s syndrome and testosterone-secreting tumour and different forms of testosterone (androgens) in men.

Decreased testosterone in men indicates delayed puberty, Klinefelter’s syndrome and abnormality in pituitary gland functions.

In women, increased levels of testosterone in blood indicate underdeveloped sex organs, abnormality in the functioning of reproductive organs, Klinefelter’s syndrome, tumour of the adrenal glands, tumour of the ovary and hirsutism.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.


  1. Denise D. Wilson. McGraw-Hill’s Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. Estrogen. Progesterone. Testosterone.2008. 243,463, 534
  2. Frances T. Fischbach. A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. Immunodiagnostic Studies. 7th edition. July 2003. 742
  3. Education Endocrine: the Endocrine Society Center for Learning; Laboratory Reference Ranges
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body
  5. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School [internet]: Harvard University; Testosterone — What It Does And Doesn't Do
  6. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Androgen deficiency in men
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