Can Menopause be Predicted Through a Blood Test?

Menopause is defined as the 12-month mark after a woman has her last menstrual period and the end of her reproductive life. Most women reach menopause some time in their late 40s or early 50s and might be peri-menopausal for as much as a decade before that time. Some women, however, reach menopause much earlier or later than average. This fluctuating fertility "endpoint" is significant in predicting when she might be able to conceive children. Now, doctors may soon be able to predict when a woman will reach menopause with a blood test. 

Research presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome says that measuring a woman's hormone levels with a single blood test can accurately predict the age when she'll reach menopause. Scientists measured the concentrations of a hormone produced by cells in women's ovaries-anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH). AMH controls the development of follicles in the ovaries, from which oocytes (eggs) develop and it has been suggested that AMH could be used for measuring ovarian function.

The study consisted of taking three sequential blood samples plus physical examinations (three years apart) from 266 women (ranging from 20 to 49 years old) who were enrolled in a larger study about lipids and glucose levels.  Researchers developed a statistical model for estimating age of menopause from a single measurement of AMH and estimated the mean average ages for women at different time points in their reproductive life span.  Sixty-three women reached menopause during the study and scientists accurately predicted their age within one-third of a year.  The maximum margin of error for their model was three to four years. This research is the result of a small study and larger studies are necessary to determine its' accuracy, but it's the first study of its' kind to accurately predict menopause.

How does it work?  Researchers say that if a 20-year-old woman has a concentration of serum AMH of 2.8 ng/ml, they estimate she will become menopausal between 35-38 years old. In contrast, AMH levels of at least 4.5 ng/ml at the age of 20, 3.8 ngl/ml at 25 and 2.9 ng/ml at 30 all predict menopause when she's over 50 years old. The researchers found that the average age at menopause for the women in their study was approximately 52.  That has long been considered the average age that most women reach menopause.

Why would women want to know precisely when they'll reach menopause?  Scientists say this information might assist doctors and patients in planning their reproductive life. American women are waiting later in life to start their families and infertility rates are on the rise.  This new study might enable women to better plan when to start trying for a family. For example, if blood tests examined during a woman's early 20s predicts she'll reach menopause between ages 35 and 38, that woman will have a better opportunity to have children if she starts "trying" before it's too late. 

While menopause-predicting blood tests are currently unavailable in American gynecology offices, other blood tests that measure women's reproductive hormone levels are available.  This study predicts it won't be too long however, before women can know exactly how big their family planning window of opportunity is.



Science Daily
Accurate Way to Predict the Age When Women Will Hit the Menopause Developed
June 28,2010

European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Press Release
Researchers develop accurate way to predict the age when women will hit the menopause