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Predicting the start of menopause: Would you like to know?

Suppose you knew from an early age how old you'd be when you started menopause? Would you adjust your life plans accordingly?

That's the tantalizing question raised by unpublished research presented Monday at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.

Scientists have found that a simple blood test conducted early in a woman's reproductive life can predict the age at which she will enter menopause.

According to a press release announcing the presentation, lead researcher Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani and her team took blood samples from 266 women ages 20 to 49 and measured concentrations of a hormone called anti-Mullerian Hormone, or AMH, which is produced by cells in ovaries. They repeated the tests twice more, at three-year intervals, and used the data to devise a model that ended up accurately predicting, based on AMH levels, the age at which the 63 women in the study who actually went into menopause during the study reached that milestone.

The test missed the mark by an average of a third of a year, the release says, with a margin of error of 3 to 4 years. The average age of menopause among women in the study was 52 years.

While Tehrani notes that further, larger studies are needed to validate her findings, the press release quotes her as saying:

We believe that our estimates of ages at menopause based on AMH levels are of sufficient validity to guide medical practitioners in their day-to-day practice, so that they can help women with their family planning.

Hmm. I suppose it would have been interesting to know right along when my "change of life" would occur. But unless I learned that it would happen extremely early, I'm pretty sure that knowledge wouldn't have made me decide to have children earlier or later.

How about you?


By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 27, 2010; 7:43 AM ET
Categories:  Women's Health  
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Comments

I'm not interested in the information for
"life decisions"- i simply want to know!

Posted by: newagent99 | June 27, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Most women experience declining fertility for some years before actually experiencing their final period. If your age was predicted to be 52 you can't just wait until year 49 and think you're going to have a baby soon.

If the test also predicts when your peak fertility is going to be, and when it will fall to a level that pregnancy is unlikely then it might be a more useful indicator.

Posted by: RedBird27 | June 27, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: graybell28 | June 28, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Agree with Redbird- I hope that women wouldn't overestimate how long they will be fertile based on this test.

FWIW, my mother went through menopause fairly early (in her middle 40s), and it did effect my decision not to wait too long to have kids, since I suspected it would be harder than average for me to get pregnant in my middle or late 30s. I have a relative who waited until 40, and unfortunately pregnancy is not happening for her, despite the fact that she's pre-menopausal.

Posted by: floof | June 28, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to know so I could get a divorce before the crazy stuff starts.

Posted by: OldSalt8 | June 28, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

A margin of error of three to four years . . . . .? That's a very wide margin, and leads to a very inaccurate finding for this menopause predictor test.

But then if menopause does actually occur within their three to four year margin of error, they can (falsely) claim 'success'.


This test does nothing more than evaluate existing statistics, then tack their 'margin of error of three to four years' onto it, and calls it 'success' so they can collect another huge multi-million dollar research grant award.

I would like to know what this study cost.

Posted by: momof20yo | June 28, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

A margin of error of three to four years . . . . .? That's a very wide margin, and leads to a very inaccurate finding for this menopause predictor test.

But then if menopause does actually occur within their three to four year margin of error, they can (falsely) claim 'success'.


This test does nothing more than evaluate existing statistics, then tack their 'margin of error of three to four years' onto it, and calls it 'success' so they can collect another huge multi-million dollar research grant award.

I would like to know what this study cost.

Posted by: momof20yo | June 28, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

This information would be very helpful in making decisions about your overall reproductive health. Women who have already had their children, and suffer from other abnormal reproductive problems like fibroids, PMDD, endometriosis would be able to make informed decisions with their docs about the best approach to address these symptoms. Some docs are reluctant to perform surgeries while women are still able to conceive and women often suffer for years without relief. This is great information to have.

Posted by: janel20674 | June 28, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Personally, something like this would have been helpful for planning when we had kids. When we finally started trying in my early 30s, I discovered that I was one of those women whose eggs were "aging" significantly faster than normal. I had always been healthy, always made good choices (no smoking, drugs, wild history, etc.), and of course there were no "symptoms" to ever give me any reason to think anything was wrong. It was a huge shock to find out so late in the game that there was a problem, and we ended up struggling with fertility issues for several years -- and honestly, it was only because I pushed my doc after my second miscarriage that we even found out at all. We were lucky that it was still early enough, and with a little help, we were able to have two healthy kids. But knowing that in advance would have changed how we approached things.

Then again, with no reason to believe we had a problem, I'd never have even thought to go for the test in the first place. . . .

Posted by: laura33 | June 28, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

It might be useful to avoid going through menopause just at the time when your kids go through puberty; the combination may be hard to manage for a family.

Posted by: mom9 | June 28, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I started perimenopause very early. If I had known that was going to happen, it would have saved me thousands of dollars in doctor's visits, tests, and therapy trying to figure out what was "wrong" with me. My mother passed away before this became an issue for me, so I didn't have her experience to go by. I just thought I was crazy.

Posted by: AllieR1 | June 28, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

My mother was early, so I expected to be early also and I was, although not to the degree that she was. I do remember about 25 years ago, when peri-menopause was not well documented, a discussion among a group of us discussing certain changes and the fact that those who had mentioned these changes to their doctors had had a D& C recommended. We decided that as all of us were experiencing similar changes and none of us wanted D& C's that what we were experiencing was probably normal and we would refrain from mentioning these changes. Knowing the age when one can expect menopause to be around the corner and what to expect as it approaches would allow a woman to communicate more freely with her doctor and to better make informed decisions about possible actions.

Posted by: abbyandmollycats | June 28, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If I could find out, I might want to know out of curiosity (sort of like I wanted some idea of how tall I would end up when I was a kid).

But I'm with Jennifer on this one -- unless you are telling me that it's going to happen exceptionally early (like, before my mid-thirties early), it's not going to especially affect my plans.

Posted by: forget@menot.com | June 28, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I want to know and for reasons that have nothing to do with having kids. Been having other issues that may require surgical procedures. If I knew I was a year or 2 away, I may just wait those issues out because they wouldn't exist after menopause.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | July 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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