A new test that can predict how many viable eggs a woman has left is set to be launched in the UK, the company Biofusion has announced. The kit, developed by Professor Bill Ledger of Sheffield University, will go on sale in January. It will measure the levels of three hormones present in the blood to predict when the menopause is imminent. 'It will give people warning of when their fertility starts to decline before it is too late', said Professor Ledger.
The test will be available through doctors and chemists, and might also be offered via mail order. It will measure the levels of two hormones produced by the ovaries that drop as the menopause approaches, and another, released by the brain, that increases. By analysing the different levels, the kit can predict how close to the menopause a woman is, and, by repeating the test two years later, a woman will also be able to find out how quickly her fertility is declining.
Professor Ledger said that different people run through their supply of eggs at different speeds - one per cent of women will begin the menopause at 40, whereas others will continue to be fertile into their fifties. 'The test is designed to tell women where they are in that spectrum', he said, adding that pilot studies had been successful: 'I have seen quite a few people who have changed their plans and said "shall we try for a baby this year rather than wait because my test results aren't great"'.
Commenting on the news, Clare Brown of the charity Infertility Network UK said that the test was 'a good method of giving a woman an indication of their current fertility in terms of how many viable eggs they had left'. However, she stressed that 'ovarian reserve is not the only aspect of a woman's fertility which may have an effect on whether or not she is able to conceive', adding 'we would urge caution in taking any one single factor as an indication of present or future fertility'.