Postponing a family? New menopause predictor

May 7, 2008

Today, many couples often postpone having children until after age 30, although many do not realise that a woman’s fertility is linked to her menopause and some women are sterile as early as their thirties, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by Dr. van Disseldorp of the University Medical Centre, at Utrecht in The Netherlands. It is clear that knowing when menopause may occur could greatly affect their decision on when to start a family, and now there is new research to show that a easy-to-measure hormone may be a better predictor of menopause than actual chronological age.

Women are born with all of the eggs that they will ever have, and they lose them throughout life until menopause, when none are left. The Utrecht study has revealed that the age when menopause begins might be easily predicted by a hormone correlated to the number of antral follicles in the ovaries. Antral follicles are small, about 2-8 mm in diameter, but they can be seen, measured and counted with ultrasound.

As women age they have less eggs remaining, and therefore they have less antral follicles visible on ultrasound. The researchers in Utrecht took this a stage further and looked at the levels of the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), which is closely correlated with the number of antral follicles. So a simple blood test for this hormone can accurately predict the age of onset of menopause. The average age in the West is 51, but women planning on a late family may want to have a more accurate assessment before leaving it to chance.


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