Researchers report they have developed a method to predict when women will begin menopause.
The finding was delivered by Dr. Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.
Tehrani says her findings have implications for women and their doctors. If the results of the research are supported by larger studies, it means that women will be able to discover early on in their reproductive life what their expected age at menopause will be, so that they can plan when to start a family.
Researchers determined the average difference between the predicted age and the actual age that the women in their study reached menopause was only a third of a year, and the maximum margin of error was between three and four years.
By taking blood samples from 266 women, aged 20-49, who had been enrolled in the much larger Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study, Dr. Ramezani Tehrani and her colleagues were able to measure the concentrations of a hormone that is 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 researchers took two further blood samples at three yearly intervals, and they also collected information on the women’s socioeconomic background and reproductive history.
In addition, the women had physical examinations every three years.
The Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study is a prospective study that started in 1998 and is still continuing.
Dr. Ramezani Tehrani was able to use a statistical model to identify AMH levels at different ages that would predict if women were likely to have an early menopause (before the age of 45). She found that, for instance, AMH levels of 4.1 ng/ml or less predicted early menopause in 20-year-olds, AMH levels of 3.3 ng/ml predicted it in 25-year-olds, and AMH levels of 2.4 ng/ml predicted it in 30-year-olds.
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 predicted an age at menopause of over 50 years old. The researchers found that the average age at menopause for the women in their study was approximately 52.