Washington, Apr 28 : The age a woman will reach menopause may now be predicted more realistically thanks to researchers in the Netherlands, who say that the levels of a hormone called anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) may be the key.
And, they say that the discovery also helps specify a woman's reproductive age more accurately than chronological age alone - something that may have an impact on when they should have children.
The levels of AMH in the blood reflect the number of small follicles present in a woman's ovaries.
This follicle stock enables reproduction by ensuring monthly ovulations.
Depletion of the stock leads to menopause, which normally occurs between 40 and 60 years of age.
However, researchers say knowing when menopause may occur has an impact on when a couple decides to have children.
"Couples often postpone childbearing until after age thirty, even though variation in menopausal age and corresponding variation in natural fertility means that some women are sterile as early as heir thirties," say Dr. Jeroen van Disseldorp and Dr Frank Broekmans of the University Medical Center Utrecht.
"Knowing when menopause may occur could greatly impact childbearing decisions and our findings show that such knowledge may now be available from AMH levels."
As a part of the study, the researchers measured the AMH levels in 144 healthy, fertile women.
They then used this data to determine an estimate of mean AMH as a function of age.
The information was further used to estimate the distribution of the age of menopause in a sample of 3,384 women between the ages of 50 and 70.
Based on the AMH level and age, the researchers then developed a model that could predict age at menopause for individual women.
The study will appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).