Your Guide to Primary Ovarian Insufficiency

Premature ovarian failure or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POF) occurs in only 1% of women under 40 years old (1). However, there is an overwhelming amount of confusion about what premature ovarian failure truly is. We want to give you the truth by showing you the signs of POF and how it is connected to infertility.

What is premature ovarian failure?

Premature ovarian failure generally occurs in women between the ages of 35 - 40. However, in rare cases this happens to some women in their teens and twenties. As a result of POF, a woman's ovaries stop working normally (failure to ovulate and menstruate). But why? Your body produces different amounts of hormones, especially estrogen throughout your menstrual cycle. But, women with POF, have a hormonal imbalance and their body produces an abnormal amount of estrogen. Additionally, ovarian failure makes it difficult for mature eggs to be released during the menstrual cycle. Therefore, periods can become irregular, and one might experience infertility.

People often confuse premature ovarian failure with menopause; however, the two are very different. Menopause occurs between the ages of 48-55, your periods stop, and pregnancy is impossible. However, those with POF tend to be between 35-40, get periods irregularly and suffer from infertility.

 

What are the signs of Premature Ovarian Failure?

Some of the common symptoms of POF are the following (2):

  • Irregular periods
  • Trouble getting pregnant
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Inability to sleep

 

When you visit your doctor, they will ask you multiple questions about your cycle, medical history and exposure to toxic therapies.

 

How is Premature Ovarian Failure connected to fertility?

While some women do get pregnant with POF, it is rare. This is because the body isn’t releasing a mature egg every month. Therefore ovulation does not occur, and an egg can not get fertilized.

Women with POF have to turn to other fertility options besides trying naturally. One of the most popular is IVF treatments. For someone with POF, this requires using a donor's eggs. The donor's eggs are fertilized by your partner's sperm in the lab and then inserted into your uterus.

 

Is there a cure for premature ovarian failure?

Unfortunately, there are currently no proven ways to treat premature ovarian failure. Some women undergo hormone replacement therapy to balance their estrogen hormones. Others with use ovulation predictor kits to help track ovulation for fertility. However, none of these have much evidence behind being effective.

If you think you might be suffering from premature ovarian failure, visit your doctor to find out what the best steps are to take.

 

Sources:

  1. Nelson, Linda R. “Premature Ovarian Failure – What Do I Need to Know?” RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, 2012, www.resolve.org/about-infertility/medical-conditions/premature-ovarian-failure-what-do-i-need-to-know.html?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F.
  2. “Premature Ovarian Failure.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 27 Oct. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-ovarian-failure/home/ovc-20255563.
  3. “Primary Ovarian Insufficiency in Adolescents and Young Women.” American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 01 July 2014, https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Adolescent-Health-Care/Primary-Ovarian-Insufficiency-in-Adolescents-and-Young-Women
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