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Hormones & Other Labs For Transgender People (Estrogen, Testosterone & More)

Written by Eric Lee | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Eric Lee | Last updated:

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Lab Values in Transgender People

A question that we have been seeing more of is about lab values in transgender people. I’m here to share some basics about laboratory measurement in trans men and trans women, since there’s been an increase in literature over the past few years.

Transgender people will typically take either estrogen or testosterone in addition to some other medications during transition. We call this ‘gender-affirming therapy’. This helps trans men and trans women achieve the appearance and secondary sexual characteristics of the gender they are transitioning to.

For trans men, testosterone helps develop facial hair, voice changes, and changes in physique. Testosterone redistributes fat into a more typical male physique, and is linked to increases in sexual desire.

For trans women, estrogen helps redistribute fat into a feminine physique and lowers growth of facial and body hair. Trans women often take a medication called spironolactone, which helps with breast development and suppresses the effect of testosterone.

Lab Measurement of Sex Hormones for Transgender People

Measuring sex hormones is important for transgender people. It’s important to keep value in a normal range to prevent side effects from occurring- for instance, estrogen in trans women is linked to blood clots. Keeping levels in a normal range can help prevent this. [1]

In the first year after beginning hormone therapy, transgender people typically have labs drawn every three months to check estrogen and testosterone levels. After this, if there aren’t any issues with levels being too high or too low, they can decrease lab monitoring to once or twice a year [2].

Transgender women should try to keep their testosterone less than 50 ng/dL. Estradiol should be kept between 100-200 pg/mL.

For transgender men, testosterone levels should be kept between 400-700 ng/dL.

Transgender testosterone sex hormone lab

Our own Lab Test Analyzer is a great way to monitor levels of sex hormones over time.

Other Lab Considerations

Some other lab values that are known to change in transgender people are creatinine and hemoglobin. The data we have shows that over time, transgender people taking hormone therapy will eventually have lab values that match their cisgendered counterparts.

1) Hemoglobin

Testosterone raises red blood cell count and also raises hemoglobin. In trans men, a stable increase in hemoglobin is usually seen in 6-9 months. For trans women in whom testosterone is being suppressed, a drop in hemoglobin is noted in about 3-6 months [3, 4, 5].

2) Creatinine

Creatinine is a protein found in the blood that rises based on muscle mass. It’s usually higher in men than women. For trans men taking testosterone, creatinine rises to a cisgendered male level in about 9 months. For trans women, creatinine drops at a faster rate- they usually reach a stable level close to cisgendered women in about 3 months [3, 5].

3) Spironolactone

There are also side effects for people taking spironolactone, which is generally taken by trans women. People taking this medication may have an elevation in potassium or a decrease in their blood pressure.

Conclusion

Trans folks are one of many groups that benefit from close laboratory monitoring, especially over the course of the first year when starting hormone therapy. It’s important to monitor hormone levels to prevent side effects.

We live in an exciting time where it’s more possible for people to become their authentic selves. The growing body of data we have about transgender peoples’ labs changing over time is a way in which we, as a scientific community, show that we invest in and care about everyone. I’m happy to be able to share this information with you!

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About the Author

Eric Lee

Dr. Eric Lee is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of University of Toledo medical school. Dr. Lee has worked in various clinical environments, training in both emergency medicine and family medicine. Most of Dr. Lee’s clinical activity was in community-based medicine as a nursing home director, hospice attending and rural emergency medicine attending. Dr. Lee is fascinated by the growing connection between technology and health care. He has owned and operated a small telemedicine business for three years. He has also been contracted to provide oversight for health-related web content on Youtube. SelfDecode is the perfect place for him to incorporate his interests in human health and technology!

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