Predicting Menopause: There Just May be a Test for That
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Post written by Tishina Okegbe, FHI 360
A woman’s menstrual cycle – though critical for conceiving life, can also be painful, messy, and downright uncomfortable. And, women who spend roughly half of their lives menstruating, frequently wonder when their periods will end. Well, researchers from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine have identified a blood test that may predict when a woman will stop menstruating for good.
Though nearly 50% of the population experiences menopause, to date there has been limited research conducted to develop a “gold standard” test to determine when it will commence. Further complicating this is the fact that the onset of menopause can vary from woman to woman. To date, a few methods have been utilized to predict the start of menopause, including waiting for 12 consecutive period-free months or hormone testing which predicts menstruation end dates within a four-year window. However, neither method is perfect as “patients often want a prediction that’s narrower than the typical four-year window and more forward-looking than simply waiting to see if menstruation stops” according to Nanette Santoro, an OB-GYN and study co-author. Having this information may help women decide which family planning method to choose and can factor into other medical decisions, such as deciding to pursue surgery to remove fibroids.
The study authors determined that the levels of the anti-Mullerian hormone, or AMH, can indicate the likelihood of the onset of menopause. AMH is produced by ovaries and is thought to decrease over time as the reservoir of eggs is depleted. By using a new, more sensitive AMH blood test, the researchers found that lower levels of AMH were correlated with an increased likelihood of menopause within 12 months, particularly for women over 50. Though an encouraging find it is important to remember that the test is still not able to predict exact start dates of menopause, only the likelihood of onset.
Read more about the findings in the article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.