Menopause Blood Tests Could One Day Predict When a Woman Will Stop Having Periods, Scientists Say

Scientists hope a blood test will one day be used to predict when a woman will start the menopause.

Monitoring levels of what is known as anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) in the blood could one day enable doctors to forecast the final period of women in their late 40s or early 50s within a 12- to 24-month window, according to the authors of a research paper published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. AMH appears to be linked to how many eggs a woman has left, they said.

Over a period of 25 years, researchers followed 3,302 pre or early menopausal women aged between 42 to 52. Every year until they reached menopause, the women were asked questions about their periods and had their blood taken. Hitting menopause was defined as not having any menstrual bleeding for 12 consecutive months. The team examined the participants' blood, and mapped how their hormone levels changed.

Study co-author Joel S. Finkelstein of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Newsweek that, currently, the menopause can only be predicted in a window of about four to six years, which isn't particularly useful particularly for women who want to make decisions about their health.

"Because AMH is made in the ovarian follicles and the follicles are progressively depleted month after month as women go from menarche to menopause, we proposed that measurements of anti-Mullerian hormone would provide a highly accurate index of ovarian reserve so that AMH could be used to predict when a woman was going to have her final menstrual period," said Finkelstein.

Measuring AMH could also be useful for women who are thought to have reached menopause because their periods have stopped, but who then start bleeding again, said Finkelstein.

"I was surprised that AMH did not enable us to predict the final menstrual period even more accurately," said Finkelstein. "In fact, AMH appears to be better at predicting which women will not experience their final menstrual period in the next few years than those who will."

Finkelstein explained menopause is currently defined by a woman's menstrual cycle, for instance a woman going 12 months without bleeding after the age of 40—which is often inaccurate.

"In the future AMH measurements may replace bleeding patterns as the way that we define menopause," he said.

Last week, a separate team of scientists published a paper linking having sex regularly with reaching the menopause later. Participants who were sexually active weekly had a 28 percent lower chance of naturally entering this stage of their lives, compared with those who had some form of sex once a month or less, according to the study presented in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

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