It's a question asked daily of doctors – how long do I have left to have a baby? Finally, women may be be able to find out for themselves, using a simple blood test. A kit might be available in as little as three years.
Scientists in Iran believe they have devised an accurate model to predict what age a woman will reach menopause. Using a simple blood test to measure the levels of hormone produced by the cells in the ovaries, they believe can give a reliable age, within four months, at which menopause will hit.
Dr. Fatimeh Ramezani Tehrani, President of Reproductive Endocrinology at the Department of the Endocrine Centre in Tehran shared the findings from the study at the 26th European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Conference this week in Rome, Italy.
Women would be able to to forecast early in their reproductive years what age they may reach menopause. This would enable women to take greater control with their fertility and have more options such as starting a family early or later, depending on the window of opportunity they may have.
The study involved 266 women aged 29-49 years old who were also involved in the much larger Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study. Researchers looked at their levels of anti-Mullerian hormome (AMH) which is vital to the maturation of eggs in the ovaries.
Sixty-three percent of those who took part in the study reached menopause as predicted. The maximum margin of error was three to four years.
“The results from our study could enable us to make a more realistic assessment of women's reproductive status many years before they reach menopause. For example, if a 20-year-old woman has a concentration of serum AMH of 2.8 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter), we estimate that she will become menopausal between 35-38 years old,” explained Tehrani. “To the best of our knowledge this is the first predictor of age at menopause that has resulted from a population-based cohort study."
Tehrani hopes that this knowledge will be able to help doctors better advise their patients on whether to expect an early menopause (categorized as before 45 years of age) or later.
During the study the average age of menopause was 52 years.
Dr. Tehrani believes that a bigger study is needed using a larger group of women but is confident that the method of measuring AMH can be expected to give an accurate prediction of menopause.