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Back To Vidyya Beating Back The Biological Clock

Career Pill May Help Women Delay Ovulation & Menopause For 15 Or More Years

An idea credited to Roger Gosden, Ph.D., director of reproductive biology at McGill University Health Center in Montreal, Canada, is unique. Gosden dreams of a birth control pill that may someday let working women push the “snooze button” on their biological clocks.

The so-called “career pill,” which is at least 15 years from being on the market, would allow women to delay ovulation during their teens and 20s, resuming it later in life when they are ready to have children. It would also delay the onset of menopause into the late 50s or 60s.

In an address at the meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproductive Medicine in Madison, Wisconsin this week, Gosden noted that “if such a ‘career pill’ were developed, it would have double effect for family planning and postponement of menopause.”

A woman is born with all the eggs she will need in her reproductive lifetime, but by the time she reaches menopause, she is no longer able to produce them. Women frequently have more difficulty becoming pregnant in their mid-30s, as the number and quality of their eggs decline. By delaying the onset of ovulation, Gosden's career pill would change the landscape of feminine life.

Gosden, author of the 1996 book Cheating Time: Science, Sex and Aging , says he hopes to use genetic information to learn how to interrupt the body’s signal to release an egg monthly, preserving the use of her eggs until later in life.

This might allow women to pursue careers without worrying about the increased fertility problems that may arise past age 30, or allow women who have changed partners late in life to produce a new family.

There is some concern, though, whether the eggs which have been preserved would be of sufficient quality to be fertile, and not be subject to unknown sorts of problems.

“If you could discover the secret of delaying egg depletion, you may also discover the secret of delaying egg degradation,”says Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, director of the center for reproductive medicine and infertility at Cornell University, in Manhattan. “If you can do both, you can overcome the problem of age-related infertility.”

But other medical experts say the current birth control pill already allows women the ability to delay childbearing until they have established their careers.

A pundit of the approach, Dr. David Grimes, a a gynecologist at the Family Health International, a nonprofit reproductive research institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C. “would like to see some evidence on the utility and effectiveness of this approach, I don’t know many women who’d want to continue to have their period into their 50s or 60s.

The “career pill” is at least 15 years from being on the market, emphasized a spokeswoman at the Royal Victoria Hospital. It is unclear whether the final product would be a pill, a nasal spray, or even an injectable device like Depo-Provera, a quarterly hormone shot that also prevents ovulation. Though still in the research phase the potential for it is quite amazing.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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