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The latest on menopause

Blood test can predict when women will have their last period

For some women, reaching the menopause can be one of life’s milestones, but when it will happen is a big unknown. Now a blood test can help predict when a woman’s last menstrual period is likely to be.

The test, called MenoCheck, can’t give a firm date, but it can tell women who are over 47 if they are likely to stop having periods within the next year. It would be most useful for those considering being sterilised or having surgery for painful or heavy periods, says Nanette Santoro at the University of Colorado Medical School in Aurora. “They may be wondering how much longer they have to put up with this.”

The average age at which menopause occurs is 51, but in most cases, it can happen any time from a person’s forties to early sixties. Periods usually become more infrequent before stopping for good. They stop because the ovaries run out of functioning eggs, which leads to lower levels of anti-Mullerian hormone – a chemical made by eggs – in blood.

Previous tests haven’t been able to measure the very low levels of anti-Mullerian hormone present in the year or two before menopause. But MenoCheck, which has been on sale for about a year, is more sensitive. To see how well it does, Santoro’s team used it on blood samples taken at yearly intervals from about 1500 women taking part in a different menopause study. Santoro is a consultant for MenoCheck’s manufacturer Ansh Labs.

The team found that those over 47 whose anti-Mullerian hormone level was below a certain cut-off had a 67 per cent chance of having their last period within the next year, and an 82 per cent chance of having it within two.

Most women wouldn’t need to take the test to know that they are nearing the menopause, says Esther Eisenberg at the US’s National Institutes of Health.

Yet without it, women can only be advised that if their periods have started to become irregular, they are likely to stop completely within four years, says Santoro.

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