A group of researchers at the Bourn Hall Clinic, Queensland University of Technology and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, have concluded that IVF treatment does not hasten the onset of the menopause or the severity of symptoms, having investigated the first generation of IVF patients.
Senior research scientist Dr Kay Elder and her team examined women who were treated at Bourn Hall Clinic in the UK between 1981 and 1994. When IVF treatment was first used there were worries that the hormones used to stimulate the ovaries to generate the eggs required might trigger an early menopause, by 'using up' a woman's eggs too quickly.
However, through theory and biological observations on 700 women, the age of onset of menopause was found to be more linked to maternal history than IVF treatment, and there was no increase in perimenopausal symptoms. Dr Elder said of the concerns that 'it was unknown territory in those days. Although all the studies showed that the treatment was safe, it was ground-breaking and we couldn't predict the potential long-term impacts'.
Lawrence Shaw of the British Fertility Society welcomed the findings, which he said were unsurprising, but nevertheless helpful. 'This is a question patients often ask - and it's very useful to finally have a scientific study to point to which offers them reassurance that IVF will not affect timing or severity of the menopause,' he said.
Meanwhile, a group of researchers publishing in JCEM, a publication of The Endocrine Society, claims to have discovered a way to product a woman's age at menopause more accurately. The study shows that anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) levels in the blood can reflect how many follicles are present in a woman's ovaries. The stock of follicles ensures monthly ovulations, and depletion of the stock leads to menopause. Dr Jeroen van Disseldorp and Dr Frank Broekmans of the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands said that 'knowing when menopause may occur could greatly impact childbearing decisions and our findings show that such knowledge may now be available from AMH levels'.