Can scientists now predict when women will reach menopause?

To many women who still hope to have children of their own, menopause can come suddenly and without warning, ending the chance at any further family building.

But doctors in Iran believe they may have developed a way to determine when a woman will reach menopause with accuracy of within four months on average, according to a story in The Guardian.

Dr Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani recently told a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology that he and his staff have developed a simple blood test they believe can predict when menopause will arrive with impressive precision.

"The results from our study could enable us to make a more realistic assessment of women's reproductive status many years before they reach menopause," Tehrani told the Guardian.

The test allows doctors to determine the level of anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), which develops ovarian follicles in which the eggs develop in a woman’s body.

Blood samples from over 250 women between the ages of 20 and 49 were taken on three different occasions over a three year period. Information on the women’s backgrounds, including reproductive history, was also recorded by the scientists.

Based on the level of AMH in the woman’s body, combined with this other information, the researchers could then predict how soon menopause would arrive. The higher the level of AMH, the later menopause would occur. 

“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,” said Tehrani.

However, some in the medical profession are doubtful that this simple test can consistently be accurate in predicting menopause, including Professor Michael Chapman, an infertility specialist at IVF Australia.

“I'm a little skeptical given that it is a statistical model rather than working on real patients and following them through to menopause,” Chapman told Australia’s ABC news. “Certainly our data from IVF Australia would suggest that very low levels are very negative in relation to the onset of menopause in the next year or two.”

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