Ain’t no Wednesday Bubble: tick tock, part 2: the menopause blood test

Posted by on Jun 30, 2010 in fertility, menopause | 0 comments

I don’t usually  interrupt our regularly scheduled Wednesday Bubble but this one’s pretty hot off the presses. Researchers have once again confirmed that concentrations of the anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH – a protein produced by cells in the ovary and controls follicle development) can help predict when a woman will develop menopause .

I wrote about AMH levels being used in this fashion in a post last year, so this current study simply helps to support the hypothesis that science is gaining ground in the fertility/post-fertility arena. Similar to previous studies, researchers collected blood samples from 266 women between the ages of 20 and 49, thereafter, measuring AMH levels. Additional blood samples were taken at three  yearly intervals, along with information about participants’ socioeconomic status and reproductive histories. The women also had physical exams every three years. The researchers then developed a mathematical model that would enable them to predict  average age of menopause based on varying levels of AMH throughout the reproductive years, and compared these estimates to age at actual menopause in a subgroup of 63 women.

Presenting the findings at the European Society of Human Reproduction meeting this past Monday, researchers say that they were able to predict actual age of menopause within a margin of error of only three to four years. Moreover, certain AMH levels at certain years of age could accurately predict whether or not a woman was likely to start menopause early, before age 45 or at a more common age, e.g. over age 50.

If AMH is confirmed as a marker in further testing, the researchers say that a blood test could help women start family planning early in their reproductive life. As I wrote previously, it could also be used as a strategy to start effective interventions geared towards ameliorating menopausal symptoms and age-related diseases at specific points in a woman’s life. However, the potential of such a test is not without the negative. I wonder if a blood test that accurately predicts menopause could be used against a woman trying to obtain insurance for a pregnancy gone wrong due to age at which she “should have conceived.” Only time can tell the risks and benefits of such a test. In the interim, it seems that science is well on its way to controlling the tick tock of every woman’s biological clock.

What do you think?

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Posted by on Jul 27, 2009 in fertility | 4 comments


I ran across a piece on MSNBC.com over the weekend,  in which a U.S. fertility doctor defends his decision to treat older recipients of fertility treatments. The result? Pregnancies well into a time in life when a woman is typically experiencing the cessation of reproduction and moving into menopause.

Unfortunately, the mother featured in the story died at age 69, leaving behind two-year old twins.

While the doctor states that he would prefer to treat women who are likely to live long enough to parent their children, he also asks the following:  “How old is too old to become a mom?”

Ironically, a little over a month ago, researchers presented data at meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology outlining successes in ovarian transplants. These procedures involve removing the ovaries and then freezing and preserving them for implantation at a later date.

Although this technique has traditionally been used to preserve ovarian function among women undergoing chemotherapy, the option is now being extended to women with other illnesses. However, before ovarian transplant becomes more widely available, for example, to women in their 20s or 30s who might want to delay childbirth until later in life, researchers say that they need to determine how the ovary will function, e.g. as a 30 year- old ovary in a 45 year- old woman or as a 45-year old ovary?

Both of these reports strike me as Frankensteinian, playing  with nature in the most unnatural way to delay an event, reproductive decline,  that has long defined human evolution.

Are fertility and ovarian treatments for the menopausal set poised to replace HRT as the panacea for aging? How old is too old? Like Dr. Frankenstein, have we gone too far?

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