This is a question that millions of childless women ask themselves. In today’s society women are having babies later and later and some manage to leave it too late. It brings to mind a cartoon I once saw of a smartly-dressed, obviously successful woman throwing up her hands in shock and saying:
“Oh no! I forgot to have children!” So when exactly does this moment arrive?
Well fertility in women definitely decreases with age and it can be quite difficult for some women who are experiencing normal menstruation, to get pregnant. When periods cease for good, women experience the menopause, which is confirmation of the end of fertility. Thus it would be very useful if the busy women of the Western world in the 21st century would know when menopause will happen in their lives. The age of menopause varies between 45 and 55 but the syndrome of ‘early menopause’ is also possible. The good news is that according to The Guardian the men and women in white coats have come up with a method of working out exactly when your biological clock will start ticking towards the menopause.
This is how it works: Unlike men, who go on producing spermatozoa until they are old and grey, women are born with a set number of ova and do not manufacture any new ones throughout the duration of their lives. At birth there are approximately five million eggs in her ovaries but by age 37 there are only 25 000 left. Now the loss of eggs begins to get much faster until there are only 1000 eggs left and the beginning of the menopause. As I’ve said this normally happens between ages 45 and 55 but for some unfortunate women it can happen much earlier. Until now the only warning sign for this is to have a mother or close relative who suffered from ‘early menopause’. Now the scientists have devised and very clever method for predicting the time of the menopause. Using a sensitive ultrasound machine, they are able to measure the ovaries and guesstimates the number of eggs remaining in them. They then feed this to a computer which uses a sophisticated formula to calculate the number of fertile years remaining.
Thus most women having this very simple, non-invasive test, will be told that fertility will end for them at around 50. However, an unfortunate few will be told that it might happen significantly earlier than that. These women will then be given the chance to start a family much earlier than they would have initially chosen. The test should be easily affordable, pain-free and quick. This is a significant medical advance. However all women should remember that although fertility ends with the menopause it decreases with age from their early twenties onwards. So when you put that ad in the lonely hearts column, be sure to add “Time-wasters need not apply!”