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The last time I visited my OB-GYN she asked me if I was planning to have kids. “Not actively,” I responded. “But I’m thinking about having them.” After all, it’s not like I’m picking out baby names, plotting fertile days on a graph, or deciding whether our NYC apartment could handle the space that another living being—and all its sundry bouncy swings—would require.
“Well, if you’re going to have a baby, you should start thinking about having one soon,” she said. “You don’t have that much time left.”
Really? You mean I won’t be fertile forever? Thanks for the head’s up, doc. At 36, I still don’t know if I want to have kids. And even if I did, I was, at the time of my appointment, still nine months away from my wedding, so not exactly the ideal time to give babymaking a go. But my doctor’s matter-of-fact statement made me wonder: Just how much time do I have before menopause kicks in? Should I fast-track any pregnancy plans?
Turns out, I may not have to wait very much longer to find out. Researchers at the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, have developed a simple blood test that may accurately predict at what age a woman will hit menopause. The results will be discussed today at the 26th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome.
Dr. Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani and her team analyzed the blood samples of 266 women between the ages of 20 and 49. Specifically, they measured the concentrations of the hormone anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), which is produced by cells in women's ovaries, to predict the age at which they would hit menopause. AMH controls the development of follicles in the ovaries, from which eggs are created. The amount of AMH a woman has is thought to reflect how many eggs she has left.
During their study, 63 women reached menopause. When they compared their predictions to those women’s actual ages, they found that the average difference between the predicted age and actual age was just four months. Before you run out for a test though, keep in mind that the maximum margin of error was between three to four years—not bad for a preliminary trial, but not so great for women who might use this information to plan for a family. Suffice it to say, more research is needed before such a test is rolled out to every OBGYN’s office in America.
Of course, waiting until the last possible moment to have kids isn’t necessarily a wise decision, anyway. A woman’s risk of miscarriage jumps from one in 10 at the age of 20 to one in three by the time you’re 40. And just because you have a couple of eggs left doesn’t mean that they’re the best quality. The longer you wait to have kids, the greater your chances of complications.
So maybe it’s just as well that I can’t predict within four months’ accuracy when I’ll no longer be able to have kids. Knowing me, I’d wait until the last possible second. And if having them sooner means fewer risks for me and my baby, maybe this is one thing I don’t want to wait on. It will, however, still have to wait until after the wedding. Isn’t that what honeymoons are for?
Would you take a blood test to find out when you'll reach menopause? Chime in below.