What is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Premature Ovarian Failure (also simply known as POF) is a condition where the woman’s ovaries fail to develop and mature eggs and subsequently ovulate. This is the same process that happens during menopause and is perfectly natural. However, if it occurs early (under the age of 40) it can have a significant impact upon a woman’s fertility.
It is also known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), Early Menopause, Hypergonadotropic Hypogonadism, Total Ovarian Failure or Premature Menopause.
What Are the Chances of Having Premature Ovarian Failure?
Premature Ovarian Failure is not a common condition, affecting just 1% of the population. It is often confused with the far more common for a woman to have infrequent or irregular ovulation which may exhibit similar symptoms.
Premature Ovarian Failure Causes
The most common causes are:
- Autoimmune conditions, where the body’s immune system starts attacking its own healthy cells
- Genetic causes such as Turner’s syndrome and Fragile X syndrome
- Damage to the ovaries through previous surgery, or chemotherapy or radiotherapy as part of treatment for cancer can also cause early menopause
Premature Ovarian Failure Symptoms
Women may notice that their periods become irregular and eventually stop altogether.
It may be associated with other symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Premature Ovarian Failure Diagnosis
If you have any symptoms suggestive of Premature Ovarian Failure or have a family history of it, then a blood test to look at hormone levels can help with the diagnosis. Typically, women with this condition have high levels of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH), and low oestrogen levels.
Make an appointment to see your doctor to be tested.
Premature Ovarian Failure Treatment
Unfortunately, there is no treatment to reverse menopause after it has occurred, however not all hope is lost.
It has been reported that 5-10% of women with Premature Ovarian Failure do become pregnant naturally. This is because around half of women with this condition have some eggs and follicles remaining, which may mature and result in normal ovulation.
It may also be possible to undergo successful fertility treatment such as egg donation and IVF.
If there is an associated autoimmune condition, treating this can also improve fertility.
Premature Ovarian Failure Associated Problems
If you think you have POF, then you may also want to read the section on Anovulation, which it is sometimes mistaken for.