A system and method for detecting the status of a rechargeable battery included within an implantable medical device. The medical device can incorporate a status indicator which signals the user concerning the battery status, e.g., low battery level. The signal may be audible or it may arise from an electrical stimulation that is perceptually distinguished from the operative, therapeutic stimulation. The external programmer may also incorporate a second battery status indicator that is visual, audible, or physically felt. Battery status data may be conveyed on visual displays on the external programmer by uploading this information from the medical device using a bi-directional telemetry link. Such battery status data are helpful to the user to indicate when the battery should be recharged and to the clinician to monitor patient compliance and to determine end-of-useful life of the rechargeable battery.