No sooner had I posted my last piece about women wanting to know if they are in menopause (and not being able to get precise answers) than a study was released by scientists at the University of Michigan that they've developed a blood test that can tell women when their periods will stop.
The studies have been in the works for awhile, but results from two important ones were released late last month.
One of the tests combines a specific hormone level-follicle stimulating hormone or FSH-with your age and comes up with a good guess about when you will enter menopause. Follicle stimulating hormone helps regulate menstrual periods and the release of eggs from your ovaries.
The researchers reviewed information on 629 women. That might not sound like a lot but they found a definite pattern, and the study lasted 14 years. Currently, a lot of doctors recommend a test of the hormone FSH in your blood to tell you if you are approaching, or in, menopause. A high level may mean that you are. Some also use the same test to tell if you are post-menopausal. But this is the first I've heard of a doctor saying the FSH hormone level and your age can be a predictor of menopause.
The scientists, led by a woman (yay), were actually studying hormone levels to try to help women determine the feasibility of pregnancies later in life.
There were two studies that came up with similar results, the one mentioned above on FSH hormone levels, combined with age, being a good predictor of when menopause will hit, and another that looked at a different hormone, anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH). (Who comes up with these names???) The second study found that AMH levels fall to near zero about five years prior to your final period. AMH is a hormone that also regulates what's going on in your ovaries. Like follicle stimulating hormone, AMH can be measured by a blood test.
The studies were reported in two articles in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in October. The abstracts (short versions) of these articles are at:
If you want something written in language a non-scientist can understand, look up the news release from the University of Michigan at http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6803
Last spring, scientists in The Netherlands reported the fact that the hormone AMH could be a predictor of when menopause will start. At the time, some American doctors scoffed at the idea. Maybe with these new studies as further evidence, the American M.D. establishment will take another look.
The scientists from the Netherlands say that a test could be developed that would tell women in their early 30s when they will go into menopause.
A test that can be used to determine AMH levels in you and me is still years away. While blood tests for FSH levels are done regularly, I don't think they are being used to predict menopause in younger women, only in those who already think they are going through menopause.
However, if you happen to be in Britain, you can buy a fertility test kit by mail order, called Plan Ahead, that the developer claims can tell you when you're becoming less fertile, which is not really the same thing as entering menopause, but close enough that pre-menopausal women are buying it. It costs about $300, not cheap. No word yet on whether or when such a kit will be available in the U.S.
Until the kits appears on pharmacy shelves or the blood tests become available, many gynecologists say the best way to predict when you'll go through menopause is to ask your mom when she went through it. You're likely to be about the same age.