Taking hormonal contraceptives after the age of 38 makes the onset of menopause more difficult to predict

According to the study, the prevalence of oral contraceptive use among 38-year-old women was around 10% in 1968-1969, as opposed to 22% in 2016-2017. ― AFP pic
According to the study, the prevalence of oral contraceptive use among 38-year-old women was around 10% in 1968-1969, as opposed to 22% in 2016-2017. ― AFP pic

LONDON, Feb 12 — A long-term study by Swedish researchers highlights the increasing difficulty of predicting the average age at menopause. Scientists have discovered that this phenomenon is amplified by the increasing use of hormonal contraceptives between the ages of 38 and 50. 

The average age of menopause is estimated at 51 years. But with the use of intrauterine devices and contraceptive pills, this hormonal upheaval, that is to say the cessation of ovulation, is becoming increasingly difficult to anticipate, says a study published in the journal Menopause.

The new findings are based on data from a longitudinal survey entitled “The Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg”, which, over a period of 24 years from 1968-1969 to 1992-1993, determined that the onset of menopause was on average delayed by an additional year every decade, and a more recent investigation of women aged 38 to 50, who were monitored up until 2016-2017. The overall size of the research panel for both of these periods was 1,873 participants.

22% of women aged over 50 use hormonal contraceptives. The aim of the study was to determine whether the later onset of menopause observed in previous research still persists today, taking into account the use of hormonal contraceptives and surgical menopause (the removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes) in women aged between 38 and 50 years. 

“We investigated the numbers of 50-year-olds who were still menstruating and those who had stopped menstruating, and found that after 1992 the part still menstruating was somewhat smaller than 1992. However, there’s great uncertainty, since many of the women were taking hormones”, points out Kerstin Rodstrom, a general practitioner, researcher at the University of Gothenberg, and co-author of the study.

According to the findings of the study, the prevalence of oral contraceptive use among 38-year-old women was about 10% in 1968-1969, as opposed to 22% in 2016-2017, while the total proportion of hormonal contraceptive use among women aged 50 was 28% in 2016-2017.

“This study has shown an increase in hormonal use, in both 38- and 50-year-old women, making it difficult to determine when the actual menopause occurs. Thus, the previously found increasing secular trend in menopausal age will be more complicated to assess in female generations of today and tomorrow”, conclude the authors of the study. — AFP-Relaxnews

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