How Fast Is Your Biological Clock Ticking?

November 12, 2012

How Fast Is Your Biological Clock Ticking?

Three universities in Scotland have joined forces to carry out a survey of healthy women with the aim of uncovering levels of hormones present in a healthy woman at different times in their lives. By knowing this, doctors can identify if the women will have early or late menopauses. This also identifies when a women is fertile.

The University of St. Andrews was joined by experts from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow for the study which looked at 3,200 healthy girls and women. Blood samples from these females were tested for anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) levels, it is hoped that in the future the tests can be carried out on urine samples. This hormone gives an indication of the number of eggs a female will produce in her lifetime. By knowing the activity levels of the ovaries, and AMH level gives a reflection of egg supply throughout the woman’s fertile life.

Why do we want to know about AMH?

Because the study has identified what the normal levels of AMH in a woman at any age is, the likelihood of being fertile can be measured against the patient’s sample of blood. The information found can also be used if the patient requires IVF. In vitro fertilization can be timed to occur when the women is at her most fertile. High AMH levels are known to be good for conception, so if the AMH falls then the IVF will be less successful. Perhaps it would be best to reschedule the timing. This would lead to more successful outcomes from IVF treatments. AMH testing is already common in IVF when trying to predict how long a female will remain fertile for. By having a benchmark to compare levels against for certain ages will increase the efficiency of the procedure. The study has identified average levels of AMH for different ages so a comparison can easily be made about the chance of success. Although it was already known that high levels of AMH made a woman more likely to conceive there was no statistical record to compare against.

Special Cases

The implications of understanding the levels of AMH in a woman or girl’s body are wide ranging. If a young woman or girl has cancer many of the treatments can negatively affect their present or future fertility. Until now doctors could not reliably predict the numbers of immature eggs that person has. Now by checking AMH levels a more reliable estimation can be made before any treatment begins and any actions possible to maintain fertility can be discussed. Professor Scott Nelson of the University of Glasgow’s School of Medicine explains that, “We can now interpret a woman’s or child’s AMH with confidence and that is a huge step in ensuring we can counsel patients regarding their potential reproductive life span.”

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