Researchers Making Progress in Estimating Menopause Passage

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • So when will it all end?

    That’s a question that many middle-age women ask about their period. The North American Menopausal Society reports that women who suspect they’re in perimenopause should have a complete medical examination by their doctor. This review will let the doctor make a diagnosis based on reviewing the individual woman’s menstrual history, her medical history as well as the signs and symptoms of menopause.  The most common symptoms that are experienced by women in their 40s are changes in periods as well as hot flashes. “To date, there is no simple test to predict or confirm menopause, but research continues,” the Society states.

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    While reviewing menstrual cycles is one way to estimate the changes, researchers note that more than 60 percent of women who are categorized as being in early periomenopause (when their periods are less predictable but they do not experience big gaps in cycles) actually become postmenopausal without any additional signal in their period.

    But that may be changing. A new model has been developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. This model involves a calculation based on two hormone levels in order to estimate when a woman’s final menstrual period will occur. One hormone is estradiol, which is present in the ovary and which decreases as women go through the menopausal transition. The second hormone is the follicle stimulating hormone, which is found in the brain and provides instructions to the ovary. Unlike estradiol, the follicle stimulating hormone actually increases as women go through this transition.

    In this study, researchers used longitudinal data from 554 women who were part of the National Institutes of Health’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. This data was used to develop the model.

    “We need a better way to answer women’s questions about when to expect the final menstrual period.” said Dr. Gail Greendale of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine who served as the study’s lead author. “If further research bears out our approach, it could be the first step to developing web-based calculators and other tools women can use to estimate where they are in the menopause transition and how far away their final period is.”

    And in 2010, Israeli researchers reported on a preliminary study that focused on a blood test that may be able to predict when women will reach menopause when they are several decades younger. Periodically during the six-year study, the researchers looked at blood levels of anti-Mullerian Hormone in 266 women who were between the ages of 20 and 40. This hormone allows physicians to determine how many eggs remain in the ovaries. The researchers then calculated when the women would go into menopause based on the amount of this hormone they had. The researchers found their predictions of menopause were accurate to within four months for the 63 study participants who entered menopause.

    So why is it important to know when you may go through menopause? Dr. Greendale pointed out that this knowledge has broader implications. For instance, women have accelerated bone loss and increased cardiovascular risk in the year prior to their final menopausal period.  “For example, some researchers have proposed that an intervention begun one or two years before the final menstrual period would greatly decrease future fracture risk by preventing the very rapid bone loss that occurs in the few years before and few years after the final menses,” Dr. Greendale said. “But before ideas such as this can be tested, we need to accurately predict where a woman is in her timeline to menopause.”

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    Song, S. (2010). A test to predict menopause?

    The Endocrine Society. (2013). New model may pinpoint timing of final menstrual period.

    The North American Menopause Society. (nd.) How do I know I’m in menopause?

Published On: March 27, 2013