The test, which measures levels of a hormone produced by cells in the ovaries, was able to predict the age at which women reached menopause to within an average of four months.
The data was presented at the conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome last Monday. â€œThe results ... could enable us to make a more realistic assessment of womenâ€™s reproductive status many years before they reach menopause,â€ said Ramezani Tehrani of the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, who led the study.
Experts commenting on the work agreed it was promising, but said its findings would need to be confirmed in larger trials. The average age for menopause is 51, with ovulation in most women ending between the age 40 and 60. But it can happen later or earlier, making it difficult for women who want to develop a career before having babies to know how long to wait.
Tehraniâ€™s team took blood samples from 266 women aged between 20 and 49. They then measured concentrations of a hormone called the anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) that is produced by cells in womenâ€™s ovaries.
AMH controls the development of follicles in the ovaries from which eggs develop, and the scientists suspected it might be useful for judging ovarian function.
Tehrani said the results showed â€œa good level of agreementâ€ between predicted and actual age at menopause for the 63 women in the group who reached menopause during the study.
The average difference between the predicted age and the womenâ€™s actual age at menopause was a third of a year, and the maximum margin of error was three to four years.
Grain of Science: You can predict timing of menopause