Researchers have developed two predictive models that can be used to predict the age of natural menopause in middle-aged women.
The study, published in Menopause, also suggested that the modelling approach taken could be valuable for clinicians' decision-making regarding the use of contraception and treatments for menopausal symptoms in perimenopausal women.
'The prediction of the age at natural menopause is beneficial for health promotion with middle-aged and elderly women but it could also be useful for women making decisions related to family planning and treatments for menopausal symptoms,' said Matti Hyvärinen, lead author and PhD student at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, where the study was conducted.
The natural menopause occurs when menstrual periods stop due to reduced ovarian function. On average, women become menopausal around the age of 51 in western countries, although substantial interindividual variation exists. The length of perimenopause, characterised by irregular menstrual cycles and menopausal symptoms, also varies between individuals.
To predict the age at natural menopause, 279 women between the ages of 47 and 55-years-old were recruited from the Jyväskylä region in Finland as part of the Estrogenic Regulation of Muscle Apoptosis (ERMA) study, led by research fellow Dr Eija Laakkonen. Of these, 105 women who were perimenopausal during baseline measurements were then invited to the follow-up study, which included laboratory visits every three to six months until the participant was postmenopausal.
Results from the study showed that higher estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone levels, irregular menstrual cycles and menopausal symptoms are strong indicators of approaching menopause in middle-aged women. Furthermore, information related to life habits and socioeconomic factors such as physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking habits, relationship status and the use of hormonal contraception may also be useful for assessing the time to natural menopause.
The approach taken in the study could also be used to create a tool to predict the age of natural menopause for women in their 30s or early 40s, according to Hyvärinen. However, further studies with similar methodological approaches are needed to develop models with improved predictive performance to assess women in these age groups.