It may soon be possible to predict the age at which a woman will reach menopause, a development that could impact her decision on when to have children.
"Couples often postpone childbearing until after 30, even though variation in menopausal age means that some women are sterile as early as their 30s," said Jeroen van Disseldorp, who conducted the study along with Frank Broekmans of the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, the Netherlands. "Knowing when menopause may occur could greatly impact childbearing decisions," he added.
The study looked at the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels in the blood of women, which reflect the number of small follicles present in their ovaries. This follicle stock enables reproduction by ensuring monthly ovulations. Its depletion leads to menopause, which normally occurs between 40 and 60 years of age.
"Our findings show that such knowledge (the level of AMH)" could help predict the age at menopause for women, Disseldorp said. For the study, the AMH levels were measured in 144 healthy, fertile women and the data were used to determine an estimate of mean AMH as a function of age.
This information was then used to estimate the distribution of the age of menopause in a sample of 3,384 women between the ages of 50 and 70. Researchers were then able to develop a model based on AMH level and age that could predict age at menopause for individual women.
Prediction for younger women may be more problematic since observed AMH levels were underrepresented at younger ages, and a recent study in mice show that mean AMH levels do not decline at young ages.
The findings of the study are slated to appear in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.