Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), describes a stop in the normal functioning of the ovaries in a woman younger than age 40. POF is also known as primary ovarian insufficiency, early menopause, primary ovarian failure, hypergonadotropic hypogonadism, as well as gonadal dysgenesis. Normally, menopause occurs in women between the ages of 42 and 56, with the average age of menopause being 51.
When a woman has premature ovarian failure, her ovaries stop producing eggs and it results in infertility. It can also be associated with osteoporosis (decreased bone density), an increased risk of heart disease, hypothyroidism in the form of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, and other auto-immune disorders.
What Are The Symptoms Of Premature Ovarian Failure?
The most common first symptom of premature ovarian failure is skipping or having irregular periods. Some women with premature ovarian failure also have other symptoms, similar to those of women going through natural menopause. These may include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Mood Changes
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased interest in sex
What Are The Causes Of Premature Ovarian Failure?
The cause of premature ovarian failure is generally unknown. However, there are a few reasons researchers have found why ovaries stop producing eggs at an early age:
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer can sometimes cause ovarian failure.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are sometimes associated with an early menopause because the immune system forms antibodies that attack and damage the ovaries.
- Premature ovarian failure does tend to run in families so heredity plays a role.
- Women who have had their tubes tied, or who have had hysterectomies, tend to go through menopause several years earlier than average, likely due to decreased blood flow to the ovaries.
- Women who are carriers for the gene for Fragile X syndrome are more likely than other people to get premature ovarian failure.
How Is Premature Ovarian Failure Diagnosed?
To diagnose premature ovarian failure, Advanced Fertility Care Physicians will start with a full evaluation of your medical and menstrual history. They will also use one or more of the following tests:
- Hormonal Blood Tests – to measure the levels of your key hormones, including FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), E2 (estradiol), AMH (anti Muellerian hormone), and progesterone.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound – a scan that uses echoes from high frequency sound waves to see follicles in your ovaries. The basal antral follicle count on cycle days 2 – 4 can may be a significant indicator for decreased ovarian function.
How is Premature Ovarian Failure Treated?
There is no treatment that can make a woman’s ovaries work again if they have stopped creating viable eggs. However, a woman with premature ovarian failure who wishes to get pregnant can use a donor egg with in vitro fertilization. Take a few minutes to read more about Fertility Care’s Donor Egg Program.