What your mother's biological clock says about your fertility
Waiting for the right time to have kids? First, consider your mom's biological clock. New research suggests that your mother's age of menopause may predict when your fertility will decline, according to an article published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Swedish researchers divided 527 women into three groups based on their mother's age of menopause. Then, they assessed each daughter's fertility by measuring a certain kind of hormone in the blood and by counting the number of antral follicles, the egg-containing cell clusters in the ovaries. Researchers found that both measures of fertility (also known as ovarian reserve) declined faster among the women whose mothers experienced menopause before the age of 45, compared to women whose mothers entered menopause after the age of 55.
Women's eggs decline in number and quality as they age, but the study results suggest that the speed of this decline may be genetic. Meaning: If your mom experienced menopause early (i.e., before age 45) there's a chance that you could experience an early decline in your fertility, and subsequent early menopause, also. (Can you hear your own clock ticking? Find out if you should Freeze Your Eggs.)
That said, your mom's biological history isn't an exact blueprint for your own fertility future. "We have always been aware that there might be a relationship between maternal age of menopause and your own, but it's not necessarily a black-and-white relationship," says Cynthia A. Stuenkel, MD, clinical professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who is affiliated with The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). "Don't feel like, 'if this happened to my mother, this will happen to me'. Other factors may have been at play in the mother that are unknown to her daughter." (Fertility isn't the only trait that your mother's genes can affect--you could be destined to Inherit Your Mom's Body Shape.)
Thyroid disease, radiation, and heart disease risk factors such as hypertension, type 1 diabetes, and elevated blood glucose are suspected to contribute to early menopause. And while there's no guarantee that a healthy lifestyle will contribute to a later menopause, your lifestyle factors (i.e., smoking), and your mother's lifestyle factors (i.e., smoking while she was pregnant with you) could potentially impact your reproductive age. Also, don't forget that half your genes come from your father. There's been no data that links paternal side age of menopause to early reproductive aging, says Stuenkel.
"This study is just a call to action if you're on the fence about having a family," Stuenkel says. "If you seriously want to conceive, talk to your doctor about whether your ovarian reserve should be tested, based on your age, family history, and existing health conditions." An infertility doctor may be able to estimate how many years you have left before menopause by using hormone measurements and an ultrasound to assess your antral follicles. (If you're letting fate decide if you'll have children, you'll want to know about the Drawbacks of the Maybe-Baby Mindset)
While you can't necessarily control how quickly your genetically-set biological clock will tick, you can make these lifestyle changes to start to Preserve Your Fertility, pronto.
This content originally appeared as "Avoid These The Sign That Predicts How Long You'll Stay Fertile" on Women's Health.
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