Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
If you could find out when you will enter menopause, would you? Imagine knowing how long you have left before becoming infertile. Iranian scientists believe they have discovered how a simple blood test could predict when women will become menopausal. But before you roll up your sleeves, letís examine what this all means. This breakthrough is still several years into the future.
Menopause test study
Some women will enter menopause earlier than others, in some cases in their 30s, and this research could determine which women will not be able to put off having children until later in life. If women knew their odds of having children would end sooner than later, lifestyle choices could be adjusted accordingly. But is it really that easy and that accurate?
AMH, ovaries and menopause
Medical researchers at the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran Iran have been studying 26 women since 1998. Made up of women between 20 and forty, this group is the focus of learning how long women may be able to bear children. 63 women entered menopause during the study and based on the blood samples, researchers declared that their menopause predictions were accurate to within a three month period. But at the same time, there is a large potential for error; in some cases the researchers were off three or four years.
This is the most extensive study of its kind conducted to date as scientists in North America have yet to study the AMH link to menopause in greater detail.
Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study, plus two more samples were extracted during the next six years. Scientists have been measuring the anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) found in each sample. This hormone is produced by the ovaries and as the number of eggs declines so too do the chances of successfully conceiving. From birth the number of eggs steadily decreases to the point where fertility is no longer possible by the time menopause has finished.
Blood tests for menopause, concerns
Ideally women would learn about their ovarian hormonal levels early enough to give them a good idea of when menopause will start. But is a blood test enough? Critics point out that with such a small group of women involved in the testing, it is hardly conclusive enough to say that there is much success. Another concern not addressed in the general information related to this study is why the testing did not start until age 20? There is also no information as to whether the women in the study did not did not have children or how many they had given birth to.
Menopause and health factors
Other factors such as the womenís lifestyle choices, existing health conditions, or family histories are not fully known. Plus how much information can one or two tests really tell us about our bodies? Would we be able to rely on this information? Or would we have to be tested on a fairly regular basis, say every year or every other year?
Can we predict menopause? Should we predict menopause?
Another concern this study raises is the debate about how much predictability and control we can have on our biological functions. Armed with the knowledge that she may not enter menopause until say the age of 51 (that so-called benchmark are) could she trust that putting off having children until her late 30s or early 40s will still be possible? Until such types of blood tests are more reliable in their findings women are still left with entering menopause when nature is good and ready, save for those who undergo hysterectomies.
But this type of news does give us some reassurance that finally after decades of ridicule, menopause awareness is increasing. Doctors recognize that menopause is a huge physical transition for women and are doing more to understand what happens during menopause. There is still a long way to go but finally menopause is no longer dismissed as being something in our heads.
Read more about this study prepared by CTV News Staff at www.ctv.ca.
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