Menopause will be delayed, possibly disappear as women give birth later: study

TORONTO — As more mothers have children later on in life, Ontario researchers say menopause will become delayed and possibly disappear altogether.

In a new paper published in the journal BMC Women’s Health on Friday, researchers from McMaster University argue that changing social values and improvements in science, medical testing, and health care have allowed an increasing number of women around the world to delay childbirth.

For example, the researchers said the average age at which a woman gives birth in Canada has increased from 23 to 30 in just the last 50 years.

“This massive change has to be reflected in the reproductive age of women. We are doing in 50 years what would have taken nature thousands of years,” Rama Singh, a biology professor and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

As a result of this delay in childbirth, Singh and his fellow researchers said menopause, too, will occur later and even cease to exist.

“It is going to happen. It is happening because of social change. Women have control now,” Singh said.

To support their theory, the research team analyzed data on 747 middle-aged women included in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). That 12-year U.S. study asked women from several ethnicities, including Afro-American, Chinese, Japanese, Caucasian, and Hispanic, about their health and when they reached menopause.

In studying the collected data, the McMaster University researchers found there were significant variations in the onset of menopause that were not linked to specific ethnicities.

“The fact that there is variation between individuals, and within and between populations and ethnic groups, tells us that menopause is a changing, evolving trait that is still very dynamic,” Singh explained.

In 2013, Singh made international headlines for suggesting that women went into menopause because “men have long preferred younger mates.” He said over millennia, older women who weren’t having children accumulated infertility mutations that developed into what is now known as menopause.

“Menopause is not a disease,” he said. “It’s a medical condition that arises simply because of human behaviour.” 

The study received mixed reactions with some evolutionary biologists and anthropologists arguing the opposite in that men chose younger mates because older women were less fertile.

Singh and his research team said menopause will become delayed or disappear because nature will develop genetic variations that will favour longer fertility.

As for when this will occur, Singh said he thinks the difference will likely become evident within the span of a generation as mothers who give birth later in life pass on those tendencies to their own children. 

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