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Mother's Menopause May Affect Daughter's Fertility

Posted Nov 28 2012 12:00am
Guest Post by David Cooper

A woman may be able to predict her fertility by knowing the age that her mother was at menopause, according to findings from a new Copenhagen University Study. Fertility in this case is determined in terms of the number of eggs a woman has in her ovaries.

Menopause is time in a woman's life when her menstruation stops and her body goes through changes that no longer allow her to get pregnant. It is a natural event that normally occurs in women between the ages of 44 and 55.

Ovarian reserve is the technical term for the number of eggs a woman has left in her ovaries. If a woman has a low ovarian reserve , her chances of successful conception are reduced, and will continue to decline with age. However, this is differerent than premature ovarian failure , which occurs when a woman loses her entire ovarian function before the age of 40.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, examined the age-related decline of ovarian reserve between women whose mothers entered menopause before the age of 45 years and those whose mothers entered menopause after the age of 55 years.

Danish researchers recruited 527 women, who were aged between 20 and 40 years and whose mothers' age at natural menopause was known. They divided them into three categories: those whose mothers had an early menopause (under 45); normal maternal age at menopause (46-54 years); and late maternal age at menopause (over 55).

Researchers found that ovarian reserve declined faster in women whose mothers had an early menopause compared to women whose mothers had a late menopause. The decline for women whose mothers experienced early menopause was 8.6 percent per year. For normal menopause, the daughter's decline was 6.8 percent, and for mothers who had late menopause the decline was only 4.2 percent per year. 

The findings support the idea that the ovarian reserve is influenced by hereditary factors. In the article, the authors state: "Our data do not elucidate whether maternal age at menopause is a direct predictor of age at menopause of the offspring, or the chance of pregnancy. Nevertheless, from a biological point of view, it may be reasonable to assume that a low ovarian reserve may have a long-term effect that will shorten the reproductive lifespan.

Some fertility clinics will administer DHEA treatment  to women with low ovarian reserve. A survey of IVF centers in 2010 found that about a third of all IVF centers in the world were already utilizing DHEA to improve pregnancy chances in women with low ovarian reserve by improving quality and quantity of eggs and embryos.

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