A woman’s ovaries holds the reproductive eggs. As these eggs drain away and are used up, they tick away at a woman’s biological clock and reveal the first symptoms of menopause. Studies now tell us that it may be possible to predict when the ovaries run dry. That is, the onset of the symptoms of menopause.
Although it’s not possible to count or measure the exact number of eggs remaining in an ovary, it is possible to measure the ovarian volume for the first signs of menopause. According to British researchers who use transvaginal ultrasound, they have concluded that there is a direct correlation between the two.
In short, doctors may be able to tell a woman when menopause symptoms will start for her. Put another way, they can tell her how many reproductive years she still has.
These same research authors state that this research into early menopause symptoms will transform how a woman treats herself with assisted reproductive technologies. This is helpful for women who want to know how long they can put off starting a family. It is also an aid for girls who were once treated in youth for cancers.
Although definitive information from clinical studies is still not in, Tom Kelsey who co-authored a June 17, 2004, study in the journal Human Reproduction, states that this information will benefit women now in fertility clinics and women who are undergoing cancer treatments.
Determining The Onset Of Early Menopause Symptoms
Kelsey further added that women who are undergoing assisted conception can now determine if they still have a long time till the symptoms of menopause appear, thus removing any anxiety. Tom Kelsey is a noted research fellow in Scotland and a scholar at the University of St. Andrews.
The conclusion to be drawn for a woman is that if she knows the first signs of menopause symptoms will come about in five or six years, then she and her physician would plan a different course of IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments.
The Life Cycle Of A Woman’s Fertility
The life cycle of eggs in a woman’s ovaries is startling. Eggs form in her ovaries before she is even born. They reach several million in number while she is still in the womb. And then the number starts to decline. By the time she is born, the number has been reduced to several hundred thousand and by the time menstruation begins, only about 300,000 are left. By age 37, a woman is down to about 25,000 eggs. At menopause, only 1,000.
The decline in the number of eggs is obviously not linear. So, is it safe to make life-changing decisions based upon one test of the volume of eggs in a woman’s ovaries?
It is generally accepted that symptoms of menopause begin when the number of eggs reach a critically low point, but not an exact threshold.
The best that the studies formulated is a correlation between ovarian volume and the number of eggs. As a woman ages, her ovaries shrink. Thus, her ovarian volume also decreases. This information was fed into a mathematical formula and processed by computer in an attempt to predict menopause symptoms.
The real test comes when researchers are able to coordinate efforts with a medical school to set up clinical trials. The process involves following women to see if the computerized predictions fall within a range of accepted tolerances.
Dangers Of Relying On A Symptoms Of Menopause Predictor
Information and conclusions need to be balanced and treated with caution. Once a woman in her thirties realizes she has as many as 10 years left on her fertility, should she make life decisions and accept career choices based upon that information? What if the data is faulty?
These are questions that Dr. Alan Copperman from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and its director of reproductive medicine have asked. According to him, a woman should not make these life-determining choices based upon a measured volume of eggs in her ovaries. This test is not good enough for that.
Although this method of testing ovarian volume can possibly help women in planning their lives, a second study also in the same issue of Human Reproduction stated that women should not rely too much on this process to determine the exact date for the first signs of menopause symptoms and realize too late the predictions were in error. Leaving pregnancy until after age 35 may not be helped with assisted reproductive technology (ART).
In attempting to determine how much weight a woman should give to the arrival of the symptoms of menopause, she should know that assisted reproductive technology is successful in 30 percent of women aged 30; only 24 percent for those at age 35; and still lower at only 17 percent at age 40.